Embattled Spanish Soccer President Finally Resigns Over Controversial World Cup Kiss

Pedro Sanchez receives to the Spain Women Team as World Cup Champions - Credit: Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7/Getty Images
Pedro Sanchez receives to the Spain Women Team as World Cup Champions - Credit: Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7/Getty Images

Luis Rubiales, the embattled president of Spain’s soccer federation, has finally resigned after causing an uproar when he kissed forward Jennifer Hermoso on the lips, allegedly without her consent, as the Spanish national women’s team celebrated its World Cup win.

He revealed the news during an interview for Piers Morgan Uncensored on Sunday. He has also stepped down as vice president of Union of European Football Associations’ executive committee.

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“After being suspended by FIFA, and the other proceedings against me, it’s evident I can’t return to the position,” Rubiales said in a statement. “Insisting on waiting and holding on is not going to contribute to anything positive, neither to the federation nor to Spanish football.”

He added that it was a huge privilege to helm RFEF for more than five years and said he didn’t want Spanish soccer to be affected by the situation. “I make this decision after assuring that my departure will contribute to the stability that will allow Europe and Africa to continue toward that dream of 2030, to allow that we can bring to us the biggest event in the world,” he said.

He addressed the controversy, saying that “I will do anything in my power that truth wins” for his family and others who have “suffered this unmeasured persecution, along with falsehoods.” He concluded by thanking the soccer federation and others involved in the game, offering them a “strong hug.”

Rubiales’ resignation is the arguably inevitable culmination of a prolonged saga that has overshadowed Spain’s historic first women’s World Cup victory. It began after Spain defeated England 1-0, during the medals ceremony, where Rubiales grabbed Hermoso, kissed her cheeks, and then on the lips. In an Instagram Live video later, Hermoso and her teammates could be heard discussing the kiss and expressing their distaste. Hermoso herself said, “Hey, but I didn’t like that.”

Rubiales issued a half-baked apology afterwards, saying, “I have to apologize,” and, “Probably I made a mistake.” There were ensuing calls for Rubiales’ resignation, and news reports seemed to confirm he would officially step down after five years leading the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). But in a stunning display at a federation meeting Aug. 25, Rubiales loudly rebuffed those claims, stating, “I will not resign” and “I will fight this to the end.”

Rubiales claimed the kiss was “consensual,” stated he was the victim of a “social assassination,” and derided his critics for practicing “false feminism.” He even threatened to take prominent Spanish politicians to court for calling for his resignation after describing his actions as “harassment.”

In response, Spain’s Player Association released a letter signed by all 23 members of the World Cup-winning squad, stating that they “will not go back to the national team under the current leaders.” (They are next scheduled to play on Sept. 22 against Sweden.)

Hermoso released a lengthy statement as well, calling Rubiales’ description of the kiss “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture he has created.” Hermoso also revealed that she has “been under constant pressure to come out with some sort of statement that would justify the acts” of Rubiales, and claimed that the RFEF has “pressured my close circle (family, friends, teammates, etc) so I would give a statement that had little or nothing to do with how I felt.”

The pressure on Rubiales quickly increased, with international soccer’s governing body, FIFA, suspending him from “all football-related activities at national and international level.” Monday, Aug. 28, saw protests outside of RFEF headquarters in Madrid calling for Rubales’ resignation (complete with red cards). Spanish prosecutors also announced a preliminary investigation to determine whether the kiss qualified as an act of sexual aggression, while at the end of a late-night meeting, the RFEF’s regional members unanimously called for him to step down. (The Spanish government also appeared willing to step-in, though it would’ve only been able to act if the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the kiss to be a “very serious infraction,” a claim the court was still investigating.)

Against all this, Rubiales remained defiant. In arguably the most surreal development, Rubiales’ mother announced that she would go on a hunger strike at a church in the family’s hometown of Motril in protest of the “inhumane hounding” of her son. Several of Rubiales’ family members even got people — reportedly about 200 — to gather outside the church and lend their support to Rubiales and his mother, while demanding Hermoso “tell the truth.”

This is a developing story…

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