After widespread reports that he would resign, Spanish soccer president Luis Rubiales delivered a spirited rant Friday in which he refused to do so.
Pressure is growing for Rubiales to step down as president after an unsolicited kiss of Spain player Jenni Hermoso during Spain’s World Cup celebrations. FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday in connection to the incident.
On Friday, Rubiales defended his behavior and said he will “fight to the end” during an emergency meeting of the Spanish federation’s general assembly. The Spanish government later started the legal proceedings necessary to suspend Rubiales.
“Do you think this [incident] is so serious that I should go, after the best management in the history of Spanish football?” he said. “Let me tell you: I’m not going to resign. I’m not going to resign. I’m not going to resign.
“I’ve come under a lot of pressure. Perhaps somebody will look to remove me on Monday. But we live in a country of laws. Is a consensual kiss enough to remove me? I’m going to fight until the end. I hope the law is followed, and that as there’s no reason to [remove me], it won’t happen.”
Rubiales downplayed his actions, which included grabbing his crotch in the presence of Queen Letizia of Spain and her daughter immediately after Spain’s first-ever Women’s World Cup win. He apologized to the queen while attempting to justify the gesture.
“In a moment of euphoria, I grabbed that part of my body,” Rubiales said. “I was looking at [coach] Jorge Vilda. We’ve been through a lot this year. People have wanted to do the same to [Vilda] that people are doing to me, with a false narrative. We’ve suffered a lot. I got very emotional and lost control. … I must apologize to the Queen, the Infanta and the Royal Household. My sincere apologies.”
But in regards to the kiss, Rubiales, who has served as RFEF president since 2018, said he did not see any wrongdoing.
“My desire in that moment was exactly the same as if I’d have been kissing one of my daughters,” he said. “No more or less. Everybody understands that. It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual, euphoric and consensual. That’s the key.
“[Hermoso] had missed a penalty. I have a great relationship with all the players. … In the moment that Jenni arrived, she lifted me up off the ground. We almost fell over. We hugged. I said, ‘Forget about the penalty, you’ve been fantastic, we wouldn’t have won the World Cup without you.’ She said: ‘You’re great.’ I said, ‘A kiss?’ And she said: ‘Yes.’
“From ‘no big deal’ and all that, then the pressure starts, the silence of the player and a statement [from Hermoso] that I don’t understand. Justice isn’t being done here. This is a social assassination of me, they’re trying to kill me.”
On Wednesday, Hermoso spoke about the incident for the first time through the players’ union, calling it “unacceptable” and said the actions “should never go unpunished.”
Rubiales has faced growing pressure from multiple sides, including Spain’s Liga F, Spain’s acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez, and high-profile players and coaches. On Friday, he called his critics “false feminists.”
“We must know the difference between truth and lies,” he said. “I’m telling the truth. False feminism doesn’t look for justice or truth, it doesn’t care about people. … [Various politicians] have used terms like sexual violence, assault. What will women who have been sexually assaulted think of that?
“These people are trying to assassinate me and I’m going to defend myself. The false feminists destroy people. … The press, in the majority, will keep killing me, but I know the truth, and what my family and the people who love me think. The truth is the truth.”
The fallout comes in the wake of multiple Spain players refusing to play for the team until their concerns about the federation and Vilda as coach were addressed. Of the 15 players who sent a letter to the federation last fall, three returned to play on the World Cup-winning team.