Spanish football star Jenni Hermoso has given a brutal new account of the disgusting fallout she faced from the infamous Women's World Cup kiss scandal. Part of the Spain side that lifted the World Cup trophy in Sydney this year, Hermoso found herself at the centre of global headlines after being kissed on the lips by former Spanish football president Luis Rubiales, during the trophy presentation.
The incident sparked public outcry around the world, with ultimately banned by FIFA from all football-related activities for three years. The former federation president denied sexually assaulting and coercing Hermoso during a court case in Madrid, having been banned from going within 200 metres of Hermoso as a result of a legal complaint made by the player.
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Hermoso has always stated that the kiss was not consensual. Dozens of Spanish players, including Hermoso and all of the 23 who were part of the World Cup-winning squad, also signed a joint statement demanding the removal of the federation leadership. The players said they wouldn't represent the national team until Rubiales was gone.
Hermoso has just been voted Woman of the Year by GQ's Spanish edition and revealed to the publication the sickening nature of the backlash against her in the wake of the kiss controversy. "I've had to assume the consequences of an act that I did not provoke, that I had not chosen or premeditated," Hermoso told GQ magazine. "I have received threats, and that is something you never get used to."
The World Cup winner admitted she had been left feeling "shattered" as a result of the incident but had learned to move forward with the help of a psychologist. "These weeks have been very difficult. Having to tell it over and over again was hurting me a lot. But I know I had to let it go somehow," she added.
"I continue working on it with the help of my psychologist, who I have been with for many years. For me, mental health is as important as daily training and the hours I have to sleep to be able to go out on the field. Thanks to her I feel strong and I'm not shattered or thinking about not wanting to play football anymore. I have not lost my enthusiasm."
Kiss controversy sparked ugly backlash
Spain's World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda was ultimately sacked as part of the criminal case against Rubiales and has since been appointed manager of the Morocco women's national team. Montse Tome took over as Spain's new coach and raised eyebrows after leaving Hermoso out of her first squad for the Nations League fixtures in September.
Tome said she made the decision to "protect" Hermoso, who was then named in Spain's squad to face Italy and Switzerland in the Nations League in October. Hermoso came on as a second half substitute against Italy and marked her return to the national side by scoring an 89th-minute winner.
Hermoso's World Cup kiss controversy sparked protests across Spain and prompted a powerful women's movement in the country as thousands rallied to the player's cause. The 33-year-old said after winning the GQ award that she hoped to be remembered for helping to usher in important change for women in Spain and around the world.
"I want to be remembered as both someone who lifted Spain higher and someone who changed attitudes," she said. There were consequences, I received threats and I neither asked for this (kiss) nor initiated it...
"Many of us have become aware of what the word 'feminism' really means. We, as women footballers, have experienced the fight for equality up close. We were called capricious. People said we wanted to be paid like the boys, but that wasn't true."
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