FIFA suspended Luis Rubiales as president of Spain’s football federation on Saturday for kissing Spanish Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso on the lips, and banned him from making contact with her.
“(We) decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level,” world football’s governing body said in a statement.
FIFA’s suspension of Spanish federation (RFEF) president 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.
FIFA’s move was the latest development in a deepening row between Rubiales and the RFEF and Hermoso and her Spain teammates which the players say has tarnished the glory of their World Cup win in Australia last Sunday.
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 refused to resign at an emergency RFEF meeting on Friday and on Saturday, the federation threatened to take 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 against England in Sydney, which Rubiales described as “mutual, euphoric and consensual”.
The RFEF responded, saying they would “demonstrate each of the lies that have been spread, whether in the name of the player, if that is the case, or by the player herself”.
It would take “as many legal actions as necessary to defend the honour of the President of the RFEF.”
Hermoso, 33, along with 80 other Spain players, including the entire World Cup winning squad, said they were going on strike and would not play for the national team until the “leadership” changed.
That was a reaction to Rubiales refusing to resign despite unprecedented criticism. He claims he is the target of a “social assassination”.
Hermoso hit back strongly against his 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 released through her Futpro union.
The RFEF published a series of images on their website attempting to demonstrate that Hermoso did in fact lift up Rubiales, as “the first demonstration that the facts exposed by Mr. President are absolutely true”.
Their threat of legal action appeared targeted at not just Hermoso and Futpro, but anybody who may have damaged “the president’s honourability”.
The Spanish government confirmed earlier Saturday they had also started a process which may allow them to suspend Rubiales from his post next week.
– ‘Abuse is abuse’ –
Hermoso’s union Futpro said the 81 players were striking to help foster change.
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.
“We all stand with you, Jenni Hermoso, and all players of the Spanish team.”
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.
In its statement on Saturday, the federation appeared to send a thinly veiled threat to the striking players.
“The RFEF respects, as it has always respected, the decisions of the players who wish to participate or not with the Spanish national team in international matches, although it is clear national team duty is an obligation for all federated persons if they are called up,” the RFEF said.