Spanish prosecutors said Monday they had opened an investigation into whether Luis Rubiales, the president of the country’s football federation, could be charged with committing an act of sexual assault after he assaulted one of the female team’s players. kissed the lips when they won the match. World Cup this month.
Subsequently, late Monday evening, after nearly six hours of intense discussions at an emergency meeting, the Spanish Football Federation issued a statement asking Mr Rubiales to “immediately tender his resignation as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation”, citing “the latest events and the unacceptable behavior that has seriously damaged the image of Spanish football.”
Mr Rubiales, 46, was shown on video after the World Cup final in Sydney on August 20, kissing one of the team’s star players, Jennifer Hermoso. Although he apologized the day after, later that week he took a defiant stand, saying Mrs. Hermoso lifted him off his feet and “brought me close to her body.” He has accused his critics of “false feminism,” said he was a victim of “social murder,” and insisted that Ms. Hermoso initiated the exchange.
Ms Hermoso replied in a statement: “At no point did I consent to the kiss he gave me.”
Opposition has steadily grown in response to Mr Rubiales’ behavior and his fierce defense of it, and the group he leads, formally known as the Royal Spanish Football Federation, has been under increasing pressure to take action.
The kiss has also come to epitomize the generational and cultural cleavage between the traditions of machismo and more recent progressivism, which has put Spain at the forefront of European feminism and equality. Some commentators are calling it Spain’s #MeToo moment.
On Monday afternoon, prosecutors at Spain’s National Court opened a preliminary investigation against Mr Rubiales to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to take action against him for assault, a crime punishable by one to four years in prison. Under Spanish law, non-consensual ‘kissing on the mouth’ is grounds for assessing whether there is an ‘attack on sexual freedom’.
The prosecutor’s office has received several complaints about the kiss from individuals and groups, the newspaper El País reported, but none from Ms Hermoso herself. She was invited to file a complaint within 15 days. She said in a statement Friday that the kiss made her feel “vulnerable” and a “victim of an attack.”
Another complaint, separate from the Mrs. Hermoso incident, concerned “obscene exhibitionism towards a minor,” referring to Mr. Rubiales being held to his crotch in the presence of Princess Sofía, aged 16.
The Spanish team recently enjoyed success at the highest level of women’s football, having reached the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2015, but the events surrounding Rubiales were a reminder that the program has been plagued by sexism and other scandals.
Mr Rubiales is Vice President of UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, and has led a joint effort by Spain, Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine to host the 2030 World Cup. FIFA, football’s global governing body, had already banned Rubiales from the sport for 90 days. The entire female team and dozens of other players signed a joint statement saying they would not take the field to play for Spain “if the current managers continue.”
There is also criticism from the government of Mr. Rubiales. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez described his behavior as “unacceptable” and opposition People’s Party secretary Cuca Gamarra called the kiss “shameful”.
Players from around the world showed their support for Ms Hermoso, often using the hashtag ‘se acabó’ or ‘it’s over’, following a social media post by Alexia Putellas, a member of the Spanish national team.