Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales has apologised for kissing Spain star Jenni Hermoso during the celebration after Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final, saying: “I made a mistake, for sure” amid widespread criticism of his postmatch behaviour.
Rubiales greeted Hermoso on the podium by grabbing her head in his hands and kissing her on the lips. He initially responded to the criticism by saying those who condemned his actions are “idiots” but recognised in a statement on Monday that “people have felt hurt by it.”
“I made a mistake, for sure,” Rubiales said in a video released to the media. “I have to accept it. In a moment of such emotion, without any bad intention or bad faith, what happened, happened, in a very spontaneous way. [There was] no bad faith from either side.
“Here we saw it as something natural and normal. But on the outside it has caused a stir, because people have felt hurt by it, so I have to apologize; there’s no alternative. I have to learn from this and understand that a president of an institution as important as the federation — above all in ceremonies and that kind of thing — should be more careful.
“There are also some things which I said where, within this context, I said it seemed like idiocy. On the inside, nobody had seen it as important, but on the outside they had. So I want to apologize to those people. I’m sure they’ll have their reasons. I’m also saddened, because this is the biggest success in our history in women’s football, the second World Cup that we’ve won, and this has affected the celebration.
“We have to give the merit to these women and the team led by Jorge Vilda, we have to celebrate it in style.”
The apology came after Spain’s minister for culture and sport, Miquel Iceta, described Rubiales’ actions as “unacceptable” on Monday.
“It seems unacceptable to me,” Iceta told broadcaster RNE. “We’re in a moment of equality, of rights and respect for women. We all have to be particularly careful in our attitudes and our actions. I think it’s unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her.”
Hermoso downplayed Rubiales’ behaviour earlier on Monday, saying the kiss was “no big deal” and blaming “the emotion of the moment.”
“It was a mutual, totally spontaneous gesture because of the huge joy of winning a World Cup,” she said in a statement to news agency EFE. “The ‘presi’ and I have a great relationship. … It was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
Hermoso had previously joked that she “didn’t like” the kiss during a livestream on Instagram.
Spain won the World Cup despite ongoing issues behind the scenes within the squad, after controversy in October when 15 players wrote to the RFEF to raise concerns about Vilda’s professionalism.
Despite the complaints by many of the team’s senior players, Rubiales voiced his support for Vilda, who selected only three of the 15 players for his World Cup squad.