Spain’s national football association called an emergency meeting to respond to FIFA’s suspension of its president Luis Rubiales over his behavior at the Women’s World Cup final where he celebrated the team’s victory by kissing a player on the lips.
(Bloomberg) — Spain’s national football association called an emergency meeting to respond to FIFA’s suspension of its president Luis Rubiales over his behavior at the Women’s World Cup final where he celebrated the team’s victory by kissing a player on the lips.
The association called the heads of the country’s regional branches to participate in an “extraordinary and urgent” meeting Monday to discuss the situation after international football’s governing body suspended Rubiales on Saturday while its disciplinary committee investigated the incident.
Pressure is mounting on Rubiales to quit or for the association to remove him. The coaches of both the champion women’s team, Jorge Vilda, and the men’s selection, Luis de la Fuente, condemned Rubiales’ behavior Saturday. The statements were significant as both had publicly supported Rubiales at a Friday meeting of the association, applauding from the front row as Rubiales repeatedly said he wouldn’t resign.
The events that have taken place since Spain won the Women’s World Cup “have been total nonsense and have created an unprecedented situation,” Vilda said in a statement, adding that he condemned “any chauvinistic attitude,” while noting that Rubiales had offered an apology.
Outrage has been growing in Spain and around the world over Rubiales’s actions and his justification for kissing star player Jennifer Hermoso during the Aug. 20 medals presentation in Australia. Rubiales insisted the kiss was consensual, which Hermoso has denied. The association has so far backed Rubiales and on Saturday threatened to bring legal action against the player to defend Rubiales’ honor. Rubiales also used a lewd gesture to celebrate a Spanish goal during the match, grabbing his crotch while standing near Spanish Queen Letizia and her daughter.
Vilda may have had little choice but to come out with a public statement after most of his staff joined the players from the national team in refusing to participate in more matches until Rubiales was removed. Political leaders from both major parties have also condemned Rubiales, but the government has little power to remove him from the private organization.
Hermoso is also getting support from some players in the men’s league. Players from the Cadiz team came on to the pitch Saturday night with a sign saying “We are all Jenni. Rubiales resign.” The Seville team took the field with “Se Acabo” written on their shirts. The phrase means “It’s Over” and has become a hash tag in Spain referring to both Rubiales and the broader issue of sexual harassment of women.
So far, corporate sponsors such as utility Iberdrola SA and sportswear manufacturer Adidas AG have been largely silent. Iberia, a unit of International Consolidated Airlines SA, issued a statement Aug. 25 saying it supports the necessary and appropriate measures that have to be taken to preserve the rights and dignity of athletes.
The Spanish government is also concerned that the negative publicity from the controversy could affect its bid to host the 2030 World Cup. Sports Minister Victor Francos said Saturday he planned to speak to FIFA officials to make sure that the Rubiales issue “wouldn’t in any way affect” the decision on Spain hosting the international men’s tournament.
The controversy comes during a period of political deadlock in Spain following an inconclusive national election on July 28. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has retained the job in a caretaker capacity as both he and conservative opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo seek ways to find enough support to win an investiture vote.
Sanchez has repeatedly sought to portray his government as being on the side of women since he first came to power in 2018, but some of his gender and equality laws have been deeply divisive and opposition to them has been used as rallying calls by opposition parties. Most notable was a law known as the “only yes means yes” law that sought to create tighter sentences for sex crimes, but had the unintended consequence of leading to the release of criminals who had their sentences revised under the new definitions.
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