In the world of football, celebrations are a common sight, from players dancing after a goal to fans erupting in joy after a crucial win. However, not all celebrations are received with the same enthusiasm. Such was the case with Luis Rubiales, the former president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), whose actions during the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney have led to his downfall.
Rubiales grabbed centre stage as Spain celebrated their historic victory against England, but not for the reasons one might anticipate. During the medal ceremony, he kissed Spain’s forward, Jenni Hermoso, on the lips. This act, which Hermoso later stated was non-consensual, sparked immediate outrage. The situation was not over. During the post-match celebrations, Rubiales was seen grabbing his crotch in joy and throwing another player, Athenea del Castillo, over his shoulder.
The backlash was swift. The kiss overshadowed Spain’s World Cup win, turning a moment of national pride into a topic of controversy. Calls for Rubiales’ resignation grew louder, and despite his initial resistance, he resigned from his position in September. FIFA, the world football regulatory body, first suspended Rubiales for 90 days. However, following an extensive investigation, they increased the suspension to a three-year ban from all football-related activity, alleging a violation of article 13 of their disciplinary code.
Rubiales encountered legal difficulties outside of football. Hermoso filed a legal complaint against him, and a criminal inquiry was launched in Spain. Prosecutors in Spain charged Rubiales with sexual assault and coercion, stating that he attempted to persuade Hermoso and her family to downplay the incident. Rubiales has repeatedly denied any misconduct and has vowed to defend his innocence.
The Players’ Stand
The incident had a ripple effect on the Spanish women’s national team. Many players voiced their concerns, with some even boycotting the national team until changes were made within the football federation. Jorge Vilda, the World Cup-winning manager, was also fired in September and is currently being investigated as part of the criminal case against Rubiales.
Despite the incident, Hermoso returned to international football triumphantly. She was instrumental in Spain’s recent victory over Italy, scoring the game-winning goal in the 89th minute. She emphasised her excitement after the match, saying, “What better joy than to get back here and feel good again?”
The Rubiales incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of consent and the consequences of overstepping boundaries. While Spain celebrated their World Cup victory, the actions of one individual cast a shadow over their achievement. The world of football, and society at large, must continue to address such issues head-on, ensuring that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.