The 46-year-old Rubiales has been at the center of controversy for planting a non-consensual kiss on player Jenni Hermoso after Spain’s Women’s World Cup triumph last month. Despite facing widespread criticism, Rubiales has steadfastly refused to step down from his post.
Striker Alvaro Morata, speaking on behalf of the men’s team, issued a statement declaring, “We cannot condone what we view as inexcusable behavior from Mr. Rubiales, who has failed the organization he is supposed to uphold.”
The team members made it clear that they stand firmly for the principles of respect, inspiration, inclusion, and diversity that the sport should embody. “Spanish football must act as a catalyst for these values, not only on the pitch but also in its interactions outside the sport,” they stressed.
Last week, Luis de la Fuente, the men’s team’s head coach, issued an apology for initially applauding a speech where Rubiales announced he would not resign. De la Fuente has stated that he has no intention of resigning from his coaching role.
Further casting doubt on his leadership, Rubiales engaged in a lewd gesture while celebrating Spain’s 1-0 victory over England, all while in the presence of Queen Letizia of Spain and her teenage daughter. He is now under provisional suspension by FIFA, and Spain’s national sports tribunal (TAD) is investigating him for misconduct.
Rubiales, for his part, admitted on September 1 that he had “erred,” but insisted that the controversial kiss was consensual. “I will persist in my defense to establish the truth,” he added.
The statement from the men’s team was read out in a press conference by Morata, who was joined by senior players Marco Asensio, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Rodri. “We again wish to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the women’s national team for their landmark World Cup win,” Morata said. “Yet, we must express our sympathy and solidarity with the women players whose achievements have been sullied.”
As the men’s team convenes for a training camp leading up to their Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Georgia and Cyprus, Morata noted, “We wish to focus solely on our athletic endeavors from here on out, considering the crucial challenges we face.”
On August 28, Spanish legal authorities initiated a preliminary probe into whether Rubiales’ actions constitute sexual assault, as regional leaders of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) urged his resignation. In a dramatic turn of events, his mother embarked on an “unending” hunger strike in a church to protest her son’s treatment, before being hospitalized and subsequently released.
Alejandro Blanco, the chief of Spain’s Olympic Committee, described Rubiales’ actions as “inappropriate and unacceptable,” but an “individual incident” unrepresentative of Spanish sports at large.
Moreover, the RFEF is contemplating the potential firing of Jorge Vilda, the Women’s World Cup-winning head coach. Despite an exodus of coaching staff in protest of Rubiales’ refusal to resign, Vilda remains in his position. A staggering 81 female players, including all 23 World Cup champions, have vowed not to represent the national team while Rubiales continues in his role.
Complicating matters, a video has surfaced in which Hermoso and her teammates are seen joking about the incident. However, Hermoso has publicly stated that the kiss was non-consensual, describing it as an “impulsive, sexist act” that made her feel “disrespected and vulnerable.”
Hermoso also claimed she, her family, and teammates have been subjected to “ongoing pressure” to produce a statement that would somehow exonerate Rubiales.
And that, dear readers, is a textbook example of how not to lead a sports federation. With controversy swirling, eyes are now on how the Spanish Football Federation will handle this high-stakes saga that’s as messy as a locker room after a mud-caked match.