(FILES) Spain’s defender #20 Rocio Galvez is congratuled by President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales (R) next to Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso after winning the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup final football match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 20, 2023. – Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales’ apology for kissing star player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after Spain won the Women’s World Cup is “insufficient” and his gesture “unacceptable” Spanish Prime Minister said on August 22, 2023. Rubiales, 45, kissed Hermoso as he handed the Spanish team gold medals after they beat England 1-0 in the final in Sydney, provoking outrage in Spain. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday blasted as “insufficient” the apology given by Spain’s football federation chief for kissing star player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips after Spain won the Women’s World Cup.
Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales, 45, kissed Hermoso as he handed the Spanish team their gold medals after they beat England 1-0 in the final on Sunday in Sydney, provoking outrage in Spain.
He kissed other players on the cheek or embraced them.
“What we saw was an unacceptable gesture,” Sanchez told a news conference when asked about the outcry over the unsolicited kiss.
“I also think the apologies given by Mr Rubiales are insufficient. And I even think that they are inappropriate, and that he must go further,” added Sanchez, a Socialist politician whose government has pushed through tougher laws on sexual consent and harassment.
The RFEF announced later Tuesday that it would call an extraordinary general assembly on Friday “as a matter of urgency” to address the incident.
As the controversy over the kiss grew, Rubiales apologised on Monday in a video posted on social media.
“It was done without any ill intention in a moment of the highest exuberance. Here we saw it as natural and normal but outside it has caused a commotion.
“I have no choice but to apologise and to learn from this… and when representing the federation take more care,” he said, adding that he thought the furore was “idiotic”.
Rubiales also said he had a “magnificent relationship” with Hermoso.
– ‘Didn’t like it’ –
On Sunday, the 33-year-old player posted a video on Instagram showing the celebrations in the changing room in which she responded to teasing from teammates by saying: “I didn’t like it, eh!” while laughing.
She later played down the incident in a statement released by the federation, saying it was “a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings”.
“The president and I have a great relationship. His behaviour with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude,” she added, according to the federation statement.
Video footage circulated online after the match also showed Rubiales, who was sitting in the VIP area of the stadium, near Spain’s Queen Letizia and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, grab his groin as he celebrated the final whistle.
Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz had on Monday called for Rubiales to resign, saying “his excuses do not work at all”, while Equality Minister Irene Montero said a non-consensual kiss is “a kind of sex violence all women suffer daily”.
“It is very simple. Two people kiss if they both want to, if there is consent. Only yes is yes,” Montero added on social media.
– ‘Century of women’ –
Sanchez, a self-described feminist, appointed a government with a record number of 11 women in 17 cabinet posts when he took office in June 2018.
“The 21st century should be — I am convinced it will be — the century of women on all fronts,” he said earlier on Tuesday at a reception for Spain’s winning team.
“I believe women’s football, women’s sport, has a brilliant future — all we can say as representatives of Spanish society is that Spain is proud of you, of what you achieved and how you achieved.”
Rubiales was also at the reception and received a frosty greeting from Sanchez when he arrived.
The Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) demanded that the “relevant authorities adopt the measures necessary” given the “seriousness” of the incident.
The AFE said: “The Higher Sports Council’s protocol for action against sexual violence includes ‘Kissing by force’… as ‘Unacceptable conduct that brings immediate consequences’.”
Spain’s preparations for the World Cup were thrown into disarray last September when 15 players sent an email to the Spanish federation saying they did not want to be considered for selection.
Their protest was aimed chiefly at coach Jorge Vilda and his methods, including complaints that he is too strict.
Rubiales supported Vilda and only three of the 15 were recalled for the World Cup.