FIFA suspend Spanish football chief Rubiales over kiss

BARCELONA: FIFA suspended Luis Rubiales as president of Spain’s football federation on Saturday for kissing Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso on the lips, and banned him from making contact with her. The move by world football’s governing body was the latest development in a deepening row between Rubiales and the federation (RFEF) and Hermoso and her Spain teammates which the players say has tarnished the glory of winning the World Cup in Australia last Sunday.

“(We) decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level,” FIFA said. FIFA’s suspension of Rubiales will last 90 days while they undertake disciplinary proceedings against the 46-year-old.

They added that both Rubiales and the RFEF are prohibited from contacting Hermoso and those close to her. Hermoso and 80 other Spain players, including the entire World Cup squad, have announced a strike in protest at Rubiales’ behaviour and said they will not play for the national team until the “leadership” changes.

The RFEF responded to FIFA’s suspension, saying Rubiales has “full confidence in the FIFA bodies” and will defend himself “so the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven”. The federation also said Pedro Rocha would take over as interim president during Rubiales’ suspension.

Hermoso said in a statement on Friday that Rubiales and the federation put “continuous pressure” on her and her family and friends to make her appear alongside Rubiales in a video in which he apologised for his kiss, but she declined. Rubiales had been under intense pressure to quit but at an emergency RFEF meeting on Friday he was defiant, saying he refused to resign and claiming he was the target of a “social assassination”.

On Saturday, the federation threatened upped the ante by threatening legal action over Hermoso’s “lies” about the kiss. Hermoso said “at no time” did she consent to the kiss following the 1-0 win in the final against England in Sydney, which Rubiales described as “mutual, euphoric and consensual”. The RFEF responded, saying it would take “as many legal actions as necessary to defend the honour of the President of the RFEF.” Later Saturday the federation published another statement attacking Hermoso.

“We must state that Ms. Jennifer Hermoso lies in all the statements she makes against the president, as we will have the opportunity to prove in due course,” it read. The RFEF said Hermoso had described the kiss as “a mere anecdote without significance” in statements to a FIFA welfare officer soon after it happened. “Consent is given at the moment with the conditions of that moment,” continued the RFEF. “Later you can think that you have made a mistake, but you cannot change reality.”

Strike action

Hermoso hit back strongly against Rubiales’ claims the kiss was consensual, saying she felt “vulnerable and the victim of an assault”. “I want to clarify that at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no case did I seek to lift up the president,” she said in the statement on Friday released through the women players’ Futpro union.

The Spanish government had confirmed earlier Saturday they had also started a process which may allow them to suspend Rubiales from his post next week. Players from World Cup runners-up England released a statement in support of Hermoso on their social networks, signed “The Lionesses”.

“Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation. Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth,” it read. Before the tournament 15 Spain players had taken a similar stance against the federation and coach Jorge Vilda, but many relented and three were part of the World Cup team.

Many players, including double Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, showed their support for Hermoso on social media on Friday, some including the phrase “it’s over”—potentially referring to Rubiales’ leadership of Spanish football.

Now Putellas, Hermoso, the World Cup’s player of the tournament Aitana Bonmati and others say they will not play for Spain again until Rubiales and potentially others leave their posts. Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez became the latest high-profile figure to criticise Rubiales on Saturday.

“I give my unconditional support to Jenni and the players,” he told a news conference. “Secondly, I condemn the behaviour of the president of the federation, which I find unacceptable. “I also show my sadness because the (World Cup) trophy is not being spoken about, and only the behaviour is, which is intolerable.” – AFP

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