Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales refused to resign on Friday after a week of widespread criticism for his unsolicited kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s Women’s World Cup triumph.
Rubiales, 46, had been expected to step down as president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) after government ministers and figures within sport demanded his resignation and world football’s governing body FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against him.
But he was defiant in a speech at an emergency meeting of the football federation.
“I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign,” shouted Rubiales
“A consensual ‘peck’ is enough to get me out of here? I will fight until the end,” he added.
Rubiales said the pressure he has received this week from politicians and clubs was an attempt “to publicly assassinate me” and said he would defend himself by “taking action” against those people.
His words were applauded by controversial Spain’s women’s coach Jorge Vilda, as well as several others at the meeting.
The RFEF chief claimed his kiss on Hermoso’s lips was consensual and done in the same spirit as kissing his child.
“It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual, euphoric, and consensual,” said Rubiales.
Hermoso had released a statement Wednesday saying women players’ union Futpro were defending her interests. Futpro said Rubiales’ actions should not go “unpunished”.
On Friday, the RFEF chief railed against “false feminism” and said he had been “hunted” since taking the job in May 2018.
“When I make a mistake it hurts me and I ask for forgiveness without softening it, but I do not deserve this hunt that I have been suffering for five years, every day for five years.
“I’m going to keep fighting like my parents taught me, like my coaches, my teammates.”
Rubiales referred to his critics and insisted his kiss could not be compared to sexual assault.
“For god’s sake, what will women think who have really been sexually assaulted?” said Rubiales.
His refusal to resign and his fiery speech prompted a rapid reaction from politicians.
“What we have seen today at the federation assembly is unacceptable,” wrote second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz on social network X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Spain’s High Council of Sport (CSD) said it would take action against Rubiales.
“As of this moment, I have just activated all the instruments within the CSD to take the appropriate measures that are in our hands,” CSD president Victor Francos told radio station Cadena Ser.
“(We will) analyse the complaints, analyse the case … they have not formally sent us a report, but I said that this was not going to delay the process.”
He continued: “Today I can already announce that we are going to take the case to the TAD (Spain’s sports court) … I am sincerely surprised.”
La Liga president Javier Tebas, who has frequently sparred with Rubiales and the RFEF, was heavily critical.
“The misogynistic gestures, foul expressions, disastrous protocol and insults of this latest global embarrassment come as no surprise,” said Tebas on X.
“The list of women and men wronged by Luis Rubiales in these years is too long and this must stop.”
Rubiales did offer one apology — for grabbing his crotch during the celebrations of the 1-0 win against England in the final while standing next to Spain’s Queen Letizia.
“I want to say sorry for the deeds that happened in a moment of euphoria, I grabbed that part of my body and did so looking at Jorge Vilda (the coach),” he said on Friday.
“I was so emotional, I lost control and I took my hands there.”
Along with the presidents of Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad and Sevilla, among other clubs, the Spanish players’ association (AFE), which Rubiales formerly chaired, had called for him to step down.
“In the event that Mr. Rubiales does not resign immediately, the AFE demands that the (relevant sports law) be applied,” said the association in a statement Tuesday.
“We demand that the relevant authorities adopt the necessary and forceful measures that an episode of these characteristics deserves due to its seriousness.”
Rubiales also said he had started the process of offering coach Vilda a new deal on a 500,000-euro ($540,000) salary.
Spain arrived at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand shrouded in controversy, after 15 players refused to play because of disagreements with the federation and complaints about Vilda’s methods, although some relented and three formed part of the winning squad.