August 20th, 2023: Spain’s women’s team achieves a historic win against England, making them the Women’s World Cup champions. Spirits are high, as this is the first time Spain’s women’s team has ever achieved the title.
As the awards ceremony commenced, players from the women’s team were congratulated by a series of prominent figures in the soccer world, including Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
One by one, hugs, handshakes, and big smiles were shared between soccer officials and the players. Rubiales eventually reached player Jenni Hermoso, wrapping her in a tight hug. But then, to her surprise, instead of moving on, Rubiales held Hermoso’s face in both his hands and planted a kiss on her.
Credit: Sky News
Hermoso seemed briefly thrown off by the interaction but soon continued accepting congratulations from other soccer officials.
Media outlets quickly began to stir over the kiss, writing articles about the strange gesture instead of Spain’s historic soccer win.
Within hours of the win, both Rubiales and Hermoso were reached out to about their thoughts on the situation, with both agreeing it was a “natural gesture of affection” and that it happened because of the immense excitement over the win.
So, the situation should've ended there, right? Not even close. The media continued to be in an uproar over the allegedly non-consensual kiss, only heightened five days later when Hermoso confirmed the kiss was in fact not consensual, and that she was made deeply uncomfortable by it.
Soccer fans and professional players alike condemned Rubiales, saying he should resign as president of the RFEF.
While at an assembly of Spain’s football federation on August 25th, Rubiales greatly disagreed with these demands, citing “fake feminism” as the reason for the backlash on the “mutual” kiss. He then concluded his speech by repeating passionately that he “will not resign” (watch here).
Although initially in support of its president, a few days later the RFEF formally requested Rubiales’ resignation: “After the latest events and the unacceptable behaviors that have seriously damaged the image of Spanish football, the presidents request that Mr. Luis Rubiales immediately present his resignation as president of the RFEF.”
Credit: Business Mirror
Weeks later, Rubiales has still not agreed to resign, but has been placed on 90-day suspension by FIFA as they investigate the event. In response to the RFEF’s suspension of Rubiales, mass protests have broken out calling for more severe punishment.
It is now September 6th, and Hermoso has officially filed a sexual assault complaint against Rubiales, meaning Spain is now able to open a criminal investigation against the soccer president.
Although the kiss was quite brief, it was no doubt mentally damaging to Hermoso as well as her teammates. Many would agree that the shadow the kiss has cast over Spain’s incredible soccer victory is extremely disappointing, especially for all the players who must constantly see Rubiales’ name in the headlines instead of their own.
Perhaps though, this may serve to highlight the power dynamic between president and player, more specifically a man in power over a woman.
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