Jenni Hermoso: What’s happened since controversial Luis Rubiales kiss at World Cup final
Spain’s victory at the Women’s World Cup has been hugely overshadowed by a controversial kiss placed on the lips of Jenni Hermoso by the country’s football president Luis Rubiales.
Spain’s 1-0 win over England in the final in Sydney earlier this month was a momentous occasion for La Roja, securing their first Women’s World Cup title just months after a major dispute between the team and head coach Jorge Vilda, which resulted in 15 players pulling out of the national squad over demands for change within game.
Further controversy was to follow, when, during the medal ceremony, Rubiales – the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – kissed Hermoso in what has been described as the #MeToo moment for women’s football.
Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales was captured on video kissing Jenni Hermoso
Luis Rubiales was filmed pulling Hermoso into a tight hug before holding her head with both hands and kissing her directly on her lips.
News of the incident quickly spread on social media, with many people pointing out the inappropriate nature of the kiss from a top official, as well saying Rubiales was unlikely to have done the same to a male player.
The kiss was criticised by football fans, pundits, players, politicians – including Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez – and feminist groups, who described the incident as an act of “sexual violence”.
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Further controversial footage later emerged of Rubiales grabbing his crotch in celebration, while close to Queen Letizia, the wife of Spain’s monarch Felipe VI, and her 16-year-old daughter, Princess Sofia.
What did Jenni Hermoso say about the kiss?
Directly following the incident, the midfield star wrote on an Instagram video that she “did not like it, but what could I do?”
But she later said the kiss was a “totally spontaneous mutual gesture” which happened as a result of the “immense joy that winning a World Cup brings”, according to news agency AFP.
“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,” she said at the time.
However, just days after that, Hermoso released a statement through the footballers union FUTPRO, following comments by Rubiales, and said that “at no time” did she consent to the kiss.
She felt “vulnerable” and was the “victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act without any consent on my part”, she wrote.
“Simply put, I was not respected.”
What has Luis Rubiales said about the kiss?
After kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips, Luis Rubiales initially issued an apology.
“When you are president of an institution as important as the federation, you have to be more careful,” he said last week.
However, following calls for him to step down, he went on the attack at a meeting of the RFEF, insisting that he would not step aside.
The president hit out at detractors in a speech during which he claimed to be the victim of a witch-hunt by “false feminists” and described the kiss as consensual.
The kiss was “the same I could give one of my daughters”, he said.
Backing him, the RFEF issued a threat legal action over Hermoso’s assertion that the kiss was unwanted.
In a statement on the footballing body’s website, the organisation doubled down on Rubiales’ claim that the kiss was consensual.
The organisation shared three different photographs of the kiss, taken milliseconds apart, which they said was “conclusive” evidence that “Mr President has not lied”.
They said: “The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.
“The RFEF and the president, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from FUTPRO, will initiate the corresponding legal actions.”
They expressed regret that Spain’s “extraordinary sporting success” had been overshadowed by “completely non-sports reasons”.
How have other women footballers reacted?
In response, a number of Spanish players have said they will refuse to represent the national side again until Luis Rubiales steps down.
In a joint statement, signed by dozens of players – including all 23 of the cup-winning squad, said they would not take to the pitch for Spain while the current management remains in place.
“As a result of the events that occurred and given the perplexity of the speech delivered by the president… the players of the senior team, in support of Jennifer Hermoso, want to express their firm and resounding condemnation of conduct that has violated the dignity of women,” the statement read.
“In view of the statements made by the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Jennifer Hermoso wants to flatly deny that she consented to the kiss Luis Rubiales gave her in the World Cup final.
“After everything that happened during the medal ceremony, we want to state that all the players who sign this letter will not return to a call for the national team if the current leaders continue.”
England’s Lionesses have also issued a statement in support of Hermoso.
Players including Mary Earps, Lauren Hemp, Beth Mead and Lauren James shared the statement from the whole team on their social media channels.
“Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation. Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth,” they wrote.
“The behaviour of those who think they are invincible must not be tolerated and people shouldn’t need convincing to take action against any form of harassment. We all stand with you, @jennihermoso and all players of the Spanish team.”
Players in the National Women’s Soccer League in the US also showed their solidarity by wearing armbands which read “Contigo, Jenni”, which translates as: “With you, Jenni”.
Recently signed San Diego striker Kyra Carusa told media: “We wanted to show our support and standing with the Spanish national team and what they have been having to go through.
“Having to face what they have to face right now, and being brave and strong enough to say something, we want to stand with them.”
Will Luis Rubiales resign?
Luis Rubiales has so far rejected all calls for his resignation.
However, in a surprise u-turn today (29 August), following world governing body FIFA’s decision on Saturday to suspended him from “all football-related activities at national and international level” for an initial period of 90 days, the RFEF asked Rubiales to step down.
Following a meeting of the Commission of Presidents of Regional and Territorial Federations of the RFEF, the organisation issued a statement saying: “After recent events and the unacceptable behaviour that has seriously damaged the image of Spanish football, the presidents request that Luis Rubiales resign immediately.”
They also called for “corresponding bodies to carry out a deep and imminent organic restructuring in strategic positions of the federation to give way to a new stage of management in Spanish football”.
Appearing to back down on its previous plans to take legal action against Hermoso, the RFEF said it warmly congratulated the team on its victory.
“We value the meaning and legacy of success for Spanish sport,” the statement read. “We express our admiration and gratitude to an unrepeatable group of players and we extend our congratulations to all those who have built, over the years, the growth of women’s football.”
An inquiry into Luis Rubiales’ kiss has been opened
In another turn of events, on Monday (28 August) prosecutors in Spain opened an inquiry into Luis Rubiales as they think the kiss on Jenni Hermoso’s lips might constitute an offence of sexual harassment.
“It was agreed to approach Jenni Hermoso so as to inform her of her rights as a possible victim of the offence of sexual harassment…and to offer her the opportunity, should she wish within the next 15 days, to file a complaint with… the Spanish high court,” the prosecutor’s office said, according to Sky News.
Luis Rubiales’ mother has gone on hunger strike inside a church
Amid the controversy, Luis Rubiales’ mother has gone on hunger strike in protest at how her son is being treated.
Angeles Bejar has locked herself inside the Divina Pastora church in the southern town of Motril and reportedly called the on-going controversy an “inhuman and bloody hunt”.
She also told news outlet EFE that her son “is incapable of harming anyone”.
Also on Monday, hundreds of people gathered in Madrid’s Plaza del Callao to show their support for Hermoso and protest against Rubiales.
Large numbers of the protesters wore the colour purple and held banners and signs, as well as red cards, which read in Spanish “Rubiales out of play” and “do not manipulate feminism”.
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