Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso and Spanish Federation Association President Luis Rubiales. Photo courtesy of Goal.com
Spain’s Women’s National Team overcame the odds at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but an inappropriate kiss overshadowed the historical accomplishment .
On Aug. 20, Spain’s women’s national team defeated England 1-0 to win their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. The women were overcome with many different emotions, with some players crying for joy and others simply content with the victory. The celebration continued until one moment caught on camera captured the attention of viewers.
As players shook the hands of Gianni Infantino, the president of the international soccer governing body, the Spanish Federation Association President – Luis Rubiales – hugged and kissed star forward Jennifer Hermoso. Rubiales kissed Hermoso twice, first on the forehead, and then on the lips.
Traditionally, when a team wins a trophy, players will shake the hands of the top officials in FIFA as well as the federation’s top officials. Whether those players are playing for their countries or their respective clubs, handshakes are a way to congratulate a team. Rubiales’ kiss on the lips of Hermoso was something that many viewers had never seen before.
On Sept. 10, Rubiales officially resigned from his position as president following weeks of backlash and calls of removal for inappropriately kissing Hermoso, according to The New York Times.
Current players from the men’s and women’s game, former players, managers from around the world, and other world athletes have all shown support for Hermoso. Rubiales apologized to the athlete in a video days after the incident. He claimed that the kiss was “spontaneous” and “consensual” in a general assembly that was held on Friday, Aug. 25. Hermoso claimed the kiss was not consensual. She has also said that she was forced by the Spanish Federation to publicly support Rubiales after his video apology.
High officials within the federation called for Rubiales to step down, but he initially refused, stating that he “didn’t do anything wrong.” Presidents from other federations also demanded that he resign from his post. At the time, Rubiales was suspended for 90 days by FIFA.
On Aug. 28, Hermoso was offered the opportunity to file a complaint as the Spanish prosecutors were in the midst of investigating the incident. Hermoso had 15 days to certify the complaint and she did so this week, according to many sources. The complaint alleges that Rubiales committed sexual assault, which Rubiales would face 1-2 years in prison if proven guilty.
Rubiales could receive a ban of two years from the federation, but he is one of the vice presidents for UEFA, the governing body of European club football. Rubiales’ positions complicate the investigation, which has overshadowed the accomplishments of Hermoso and her 22 teammates.
Many changes have been made to the Spanish National Team since the Women’s World Cup final. On Aug. 6, Spain’s women’s coach Jorge Vilda was fired, which comes after ten of his assistants and one physiotherapist resigned just days after the World Cup victory. Vilda was the recipient of a new contract, courtesy of Rubiales, and he applauded Rubiales’ statements at the general assembly meeting following the incident. Montse Tome, one of the assistants that resigned, was named head coach by interim Federation President Pedro Rocha Junco, who supersedes Rubiales’ until further notice. She is the first woman to be named head coach in Spain’s history, which many hope will be a new transition into not only bettering Spanish women’s football, but the women’s game as a whole.
A day after the assembly meeting where Rubiales refused to resign, 81 players, including all 23 players from the Women’s World Cup roster, said that they wouldn’t play for the national team until Rubiales was removed as president. Similarly, months before the World Cup, 15 players – known as “Las 15” – vowed that they wouldn’t play for Vilda due to poor treatment of players, training methods, and inadequate facilities. Afterward, three of the 15 players returned to play for Spain in the Women’s World Cup, but the remaining 12 vowed that they would not.
Spanish team during the Women’s Euro 2022. Fifteen players said they would resign after this tournament. Photo courtesy of TalkSport.com
Hermoso was a driving force behind Spain’s Women’s World Cup title run, and this incident has highlighted the insufficiency that women still face in the football world. Spain’s Women’s World Cup title was supposed to be the most glorious moment in Spanish football history since the men’s team 2010 victory; but it has now been overshadowed by a man who abused his power, and minimized the success of overcoming 12 months of controversy.
Spain plays Sweden on Sept. 22 in a rematch of the Women’s World Cup Semifinal. This matchup pits Sweden, who is now ranked No. 1 after their semifinal run in the World Cup, against the champions in Spain, whose ranking dropped from No. 6 to No. 2 in the world. The Spanish Federation confirmed Rubiales’ resignation on Sept. 11, and the board of directors will host an election to find his successor.