Members of the victorious Spanish women's football team say they won't play for the country until Luis Rubiales is removed or resigns as the national federation chief. Amid widespread reports that Rubiales was set to step down on Friday, the under-fire football president refused to do so.
Rubiales sparked global condemnation when he kissed Spanish player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after the Women's World Cup final in Sydney. Hermoso initially laughed off the incident but has since slammed the football president's actions as 'unacceptable'.
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The situation took a dramatic turn on Friday night when Rubiales declared he would not be stepping down, complaining that "false feminists" were "trying to kill me". He described the kiss with Hermoso as a "little peck" that was "spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual".
Speaking at an emergency meeting, Rubiales said: "Is a consensual peck going to take me out of here? I won't resign. I will fight until the end."
Spanish footballers refuse to play until Luis Rubiales resigns
A total of 56 Spanish players, including Hermoso and all of the 23 who were part of the World Cup-winning squad, have since signed a joint statement sent via their FUTPRO union demanding the removal of the federation leadership. They won't play for the national team until he is gone.
“After the perplexity of the speech delivered by the president of the Spanish FA, Mr Rubiales, the players of the senior team, recent world champions, in support of Jenni Hermoso, want to express their firm condemnation of behaviours that have violated the dignity of women,” the statement said. “We want to end this statement by asking for real changes, both sporting and structural, that help the national team to continue growing, in order to continue this great success.
"It fills us with sadness that such an unacceptable event is managing to tarnish the greatest sporting success of Spanish women’s football. After everything that happened during the World Cup award ceremony, we want to state that every player that has signed this statement will not go back to the national team under the current leaders.”
The fresh mutiny comes after 15 players walked out on the national team in the wake of Spain's qualification for the World Cup. Players cited concerns over under-investment and coach Jorge Vilda's allegedly authoritarian approach to management. Only three players - Aitana Bonmati, Mariona Caldentey, and Ona Batlle - returned, while big-name stars including Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro, and Claudia Pina have continued their boycott.
Jenni Hermoso slams Luis Rubiales over 'unacceptable' kiss
Hermoso said on Friday that "in no moment" did she consent to the kiss. “We are working to ensure that acts such as those we have seen never go unpunished, that they are sanctioned and that measures are adopted to protect women footballers from actions that we believe are unacceptable,” she said.
The 46-year-old Rubiales, who also drew criticism for grabbing his crotch after Spain's 1-0 victory over England in Sunday's final, is under immense pressure to leave his post. Spain's acting prime minister, players unions, and some players on men's teams have all said he must go.
While Rubiales is staying put for now, the federation's vice president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women's football, announced that he was resigning. At least two other federation members have also quit.
Luis Rubiales makes shock new claims amid kiss scandal
In his speech to the emergency assembly on Friday, Rubiales claimed Hermoso "lifted me up" in a celebratory gesture and he asked her for "a little kiss?" and she "said yes." He added: "The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters.
Hermoso said in a video streamed on social media immediately after the kiss: "I didn't like it, but what can I do?" Rubiales said he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence.
One of them was acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take "urgent measures." Diaz said: "Impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office."
The condemnation has also been swift in Australia, with Socceroos great Craig Foster calling Rubiales' actions 'horrific'. "Women in sport are daily subject to an extreme power differential, objectification, harassment, sexual abuse and an absence of agency and power," Foster tweeed. "He should be stood down immediately by FIFA and the Spanish FA."
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