Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales is under fire for “sexual violence” on Monday, after kissing a victorious Spain player on the lips after the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
As the Spanish players were presented with their gold medals by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Rubiales — who kissed and vigorously hugged multiple Spanish players during the ceremony — tightly gripped Jenni Hermoso’s head in his hands and planted a kiss on her lips.
In Instagram Live footage from Spain’s locker room celebrations, Hermoso said that she “didn’t like it.” And Spain’s left-wing politicians went much further.
Equality Minister Irene Montero, from the left-wing Podemos party, said: “Let’s not take it for granted that kissing without consent is something that ‘happens.’ It is a form of sexual violence that we women suffer on a daily basis and until now invisible, and that we cannot normalize. It is the task of society as a whole. Consent at the center. Only yes is yes.” Spanish Culture and Sport Minister Miquel Iceta, a Catalan socialist, also said the kiss was “unacceptable” and that Rubiales should “apologize.”
Ione Belarra, secretary-general of Podemos, added: “What we all think, if they do that with all of Spain watching, what won’t they do in private. Sexual violence against women has to end.”
It wasn’t just the kiss that landed Rubiales in hot water.
During boisterous post-match celebrations Rubiales — after promising the champion team a holiday to Ibiza — also said that he would marry Hermoso there. He also appeared to perform a crotch-grabbing celebration during the match.
The Spanish football federation, acting for Hermoso, released a statement about the kiss late Sunday evening. “It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings,” said Hermoso. “The president and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
The outcry comes against the backdrop of a long-running feud between the Spanish football establishment and its women players, 15 of whom wrote letters last September telling the association they were quitting the national team over the federation’s approach to running it and amid a dispute with the coach Jorge Vilda. While a handful, including Barcelona star player Aitana Bonmatí, eventually returned to the squad this year, some continued to strike and missed what turned out to be a triumphant World Cup campaign — though one which is unlikely to heal divisions inside Spanish women’s football.
During the most-watched Women’s World Cup ever, Spain beat England 1-0 on Sunday in the final in Sydney thanks to a goal from Real Madrid’s Olga Carmona, who later found out that her father had died before the match took place.