September 20232023International News

Top Spanish Soccer Official Resigns After Kissing Scandal at Women’s World Cup

Emmanuel Adjei
Staff Writer

The Royal Spanish Football Federation president, Luis Rubiales, has finally resigned amid weeks of pressure over his unwarranted kiss with Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso. Rubiales has also stepped down from his role as vice president of Union of European Football Association (UEFA), the governing body of European soccer. He made his official decision on September 10 and informed the public in a letter via X, formerly known as Twitter. The scandal has led to accusations of his abuse of power, macho behavior, and even the continuance of sexism in soccer, according to the New York Times.

International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), world soccer’s governing body, has suspended Rubiales for 90 days. In addition, Hermoso has filed a criminal complaint of sexual assault and coercion against him, contributing to his recent decision, Reuters reports. The complaint is now part of an investigation carried out by Spain’s High Court prosecutor to determine Rubiales’ guilt in the incident and whether a trial should take place, according to NPR

During the infancy of the scandal, Rubiales had initially rejected calls for his resignation, even insisting that the kiss was “mutual,” CNN reports. He received these calls from politicians, governing bodies in soccer, and even the players, who vowed not to play for the Spanish national team unless he was no longer his role. On the other hand, Hermoso deliberately denied Rubiale’s claims and said, “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part,” according to CNN.

As pressure intensified upon Rubiales from government officials and other prominent figures, in addition to a criminal complaint against him, he chose to step down while considering the impact this scandal had on those related to him, NBC reports. He addressed the rationale behind his decision in an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, where he explained that after consulting with his family over the severity of the, he decided that remaining in the position would only make matters worse. 

The Guardian reports that Rubiales’ interview with Morgan has been criticized due to certain statements made throughout the interview. Famous journalist Piers Morgan has also been on the side of controversy during his time in the profession, and Rubiales’ engagement with him has not been taken lightly.  Spanish media has capitalized on the recent interview, stating an issue with Rubiales conducting the interview in English instead of Spanish, the language of his people, and being interviewed by Morgan, who is not well known in Spain.  He also used the interview as an opportunity to solidify his position, saying he would not apologize to Hermoso.

The Guardian reports that another reason behind Rubiales’ resignation is the potential risk the scandal has on Spain’s 2030 World Cup bid. The controversy has already tainted the current image of Spanish football and culture, giving rise to an outbreak of dissatisfaction with macho behavior and sexism. In fact, Bloomberg reports that since the incident, a universal movement has come to fruition supporting Hermoso and the Spanish women’s national team. The move has transpired across social media, using the phrase “Se acabó,” which means “it’s over” in Spanish; a reference to Rubiales and the widespread issue of sexual harassment worldwide, according to Bloomberg.

As this movement grows within Spain, the question is whether issues of macho behavior, sexual harassment, and sexism will be expunged from society. The success of Spain’s women’s national team in winning their first ever World Cup victory has been clouded by this scandal, but some see the turn of events as a victory for feminism and the stance against gender inequality. On September 15, Rubiales testified in a closed court session in Madrid, claiming that the kiss was consensual despite Hermoso’s denials, according to The Guardian.

CNN reports that the Spanish Court where Rubiales testified has imposed a restraining order on him, which prevents him from speaking with and reaching within 200 meters (650 feet) of Hermoso. As this case continues, as well as the growing movement in Spain against sexism, the goal of justice that many in soccer, Spain, and the world are seek is fast approaching.

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