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Spanish Soccer Chief Suspended After Controversial Kiss, Revolt by World Cup Winning Team

UPDATED: Spanish soccer federation chief Luis Rubiales has been provisionally suspended by the sport’s global governing body FIFA, following a controversial kissing incident that took place after Spain won the Women’s World Cup.

Meanwhile, support for him within his own federation, looked to be weakening by Saturday.

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During the celebrations after Spain defeated England in the championship final on Aug. 20, Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips. The kiss made headlines around the world when Hermoso said that she “did not enjoy” it.

Rubiales also grabbed and shook his crotch by way of celebration of Spain’s victory when the final whistle went, while standing next to the Queen of Spain and her teen daughter.  

The two incidents became a scandal with Rubiales facing criticism from players and politicians. He subsequently issued an apology to the Queen but lashed out at the media that “worshipped a false feminism” which was “a big defect” of Spain.

On Aug. 24, FIFA launched an inquiry into Rubiales’ actions. On Aug. 25, he refused to step down from his position, saying that he had asked the player before the kiss and that it was “a spontaneous kiss, mutual and euphoric, and, above all, consensual.”

The same day, Hermoso released a statement on Instagram saying that his claims were “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he himself has generated.” “I want to make it clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr. Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and, above all, was his kiss ever consensual,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, 81 Spanish soccer players, including the entire World Cup-winning team, have refused to play until Rubiales and the selection’s “directors” quit.

Hermoso is a legend of the game and Spain’s all-time highest goal scorer.

The refusal of the World Cup Squad and other soccer players to play for Spain raises a large question about the future of Jorge Vilda, coach of the senior women’s soccer team, caught consistently by cameras during Rubiales’ speech to member of Spain’s soccer federation on Friday where he sought to defend his actions.

Also on Saturday, 11 members of technical staff working in Spanish women’s soccer resigned from their positions, in support of Hermoso. They range from its senior national team assistant manager, U19/U20 coach and senior team analyst to the senior team physio.

In a further sign of support for Rubiales slipping away, the Spanish Football Federation withdrew on Saturday an earlier accusation that Hermoso had lied about the kiss. Also, having applauded Rubiales’ accusations and explanation at an emergency Federation meeting on Friday, Luis de la Fuente, the coach of Spain’s senior men’s soccer team, issued a statement on Saturday criticising “unreservedly”  Rubiales’ “mistaken” and “inappropriate” behaviour.

Rubiales’ temporary suspension is unlikely to be the end of the affair. Spaniards, politicians and citizens across the political divide, are aghast at how one of Spain’s biggest sporting triumphs, symbolising social change for women, has been eclipsed by the arcane machismo of Rubiales in his conduct, subsequent self-defence, threats and refusal to walk.

The FIFA statement in full:

“The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Jorge Ivan Palacio (Colombia), in use of the powers granted by article 51 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC), has decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level. This suspension, which will be effective as of today, is for an initial period of 90 days, pending the disciplinary proceedings opened against Mr. Luis Rubiales on Thursday, August 24.

Likewise, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and in order to preserve, among other factors, the fundamental rights of the national soccer team player Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and the good order of the disciplinary proceedings before this disciplinary body, has issued two additional directives (article 7 FDC) by which he orders Mr. Luis Rubiales to refrain, through himself or third parties, from contacting or attempting to contact the professional player of the Spanish national football team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso or her close environment. Likewise, the RFEF and its officials or employees, directly or through third parties, are ordered to refrain from contacting the professional player of the Spanish national team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and her close environment.

The decision adopted by the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has been communicated today to Mr. Luis Rubiales, the RFEF and UEFA for due compliance.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee will not provide any further information on these disciplinary proceedings until a final decision has been taken.

FIFA reiterates its absolute commitment to respect the integrity of all persons and therefore condemns with the utmost vigour any behavior to the contrary.”

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