For U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe, Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales’ forced kiss of World Cup star Jenni Hermoso laid bare the systemic issues faced by women’s soccer players.
“What kind of upside-down world are we in? On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy,” Rapinoe said Monday in an interview with The Atlantic.
The kiss, which occurred in the middle of the World Cup trophy ceremony, came after Rubiales grabbed his crotch in celebration of Spain’s 1-0 win over England in the tournament final. Both actions signaled “such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man,” Rapinoe said.
Add those actions on top of Spanish players’ dispute with their federation and their complaints about the management style of head coach Jorge Vilda.
“It made me think about how much we are required to endure,” said Rapinoe, reflecting on the kiss and on Spain’s situation as a whole. She added of the strife within the national team: “Maybe that was something that galvanized them, but you shouldn’t have to have that.”
Indeed, Rubiales’ kiss of Hermoso and the ensuing uproar has overshadowed Spain’s first Women’s World Cup victory.
Hermoso downplayed the incident, both in a statement written by the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) and in a radio interview, calling it “just a small thing.” But the 33-year-old midfielder reportedly refused to appear alongside Rubiales in his apology video, despite requests from Rubiales and Vilda.
Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s acting prime minister, said Rubiales’ apology “wasn’t sufficient.” Yolanda Díaz, the acting second deputy prime minister, called on the RFEF chief to resign.
And Rapinoe is far from the only voice from the soccer world to condemn Rubiales’ actions. Sweden captain Caroline Seger called the incident “horrible and unacceptable,” while San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney noted: “Would he kiss a male player like this? This is not OK.”