The Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Saturday threatened to take legal action over Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso’s “lies” about her kiss with its president Luis Rubiales. The RFEF and Rubiales said they would “demonstrate each of the lies that have been spread, whether in the name of the player, if that is the case, or by the player herself”. It would take “as many legal actions as necessary to defend the honour of the President of the RFEF.”
Hermoso said on Friday she did not consent to being kissed on the lips following Spain’s World Cup triumph against England, as Rubiales had claimed.
The 33-year-old, along with 80 other Spain players, including the entire World Cup winning squad, said they were striking from the national team until the “leadership” changed.
It was a reaction to Rubiales refusing to resign on Friday despite unprecedented criticism, saying he was the target of a campaign to get rid of him.
In a fiery speech, he said the kiss was “mutual, euphoric and consensual” and Hermoso had said “OK” when he asked her if he could give her “a peck”. He also asserted that “she was the one who lifted me in her arms and brought me close to her body”.
However Hermoso hit back strongly against his claims, saying she felt “vulnerable and the victim of an assault”.
“I want to clarify that at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no case did I seek to lift up the president,” Hermoso said in the statement released through her Futpro union.
The RFEF published a series of images on their website attempting to demonstrate that Hermoso did in fact lift up Rubiales, as “the first demonstration that the facts exposed by Mr. President are absolutely true”.
Their threat of legal action appeared targeted at not just Hermoso and Futpro, but anybody who may have damaged “the president’s honourability”. Hermoso’s union Futpro said the 81 players were striking to help foster change.
Before the World Cup 15 players had taken a similar stance against the federation and coach Jorge Vilda, but many relented and three were part of the team’s triumph in Australia and New Zealand.
Many players, including double Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, had written messages of support for Hermoso on social media, some including the phrase “it’s over” — potentially referring to Rubiales’ leadership of Spanish football.
Now Putellas, Hermoso, player of the tournament Aitana Bonmati and many other players say they will not play for Spain again until Rubiales and potentially others leave their posts. The federation also appeared to send a thinly veiled threat to the striking players.
“The RFEF respects, as it has always respected, the decisions of the players who wish to participate or not with the Spanish national team in international matches, although it is clear national team duty is an obligation for all federated persons if they are called up,” the RFEF added in their statement.
Rubiales had said he was planning on renewing controversial coach Vilda’s contract and hiking his salary, during his speech.
The Spanish government have started a process which may allow them to suspend Rubiales from his post, while FIFA have opened a disciplinary investigation into his behaviour at the final.
Before the vast majority of Spain’s most talented players decided to strike, politicians and other figures criticised Rubiales. What we have seen today at the federation assembly is unacceptable,” wrote second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz on social network X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over.” The country’s High Council of Sport (CSD) said it would move against Rubiales by submitting complaints it had received about the incident to the Spanish Sports Court (TAD).
“I think that this could be the ‘Me Too’ of Spanish football,” CSD president Victor Francos told a news conference, explaining he would be able to suspend Rubiales if TAD decides to initiate proceedings against him next week.
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