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Spanish soccer president refuses to resign after kissing player

(Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales refused to resign Friday, instead promising to “fight to the end” amid backlash from his unsolicited kiss of star Jenni Hermoso at Sunday’s World Cup final.

FIFA opened an investigation into Rubiales’ actions in the aftermath of Spain’s 1-0 win against England, the world soccer governing body announced Thursday. Rubiales, 46, not only kissed Hermoso on the lips but also hugged and kissed other Spanish players. In addition, he grabbed his crotch in celebration in the presence of 16-year-old Princess Infanta Sofía and Queen Letizia of Spain.

The Spanish federation (RFEF) already had scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday, and RFEF leaders held a separate meeting Thursday to discuss possible options for Rubiales’ successor, Reuters reported. Yet despite multiple reports of Rubiales’ intention to step down, he instead struck a defiant tone. He called the outcry against him “false feminism.”

“Do you think this 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.”

The Spanish government later started the legal proceedings necessary to suspend Rubiales.

On Monday, Rubiales issued an apology for the kiss, saying he saw the gesture as “natural and normal” but would apologize “because people have felt hurt by it.” At the time, Hermoso downplayed the kiss, but she issued a statement Wednesday in conjunction with the Spanish players’ union saying such actions “should never go unpunished.”

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s acting prime minister, said Rubiales’ apology “wasn’t sufficient,” and acting second deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz called on Rubiales to resign. Liga F, Spain’s professional women’s soccer league, also called for his resignation.

Atlético de Madrid became the fourth Spanish soccer club to call for Rubiales’ resignation Thursday, joining Getafe, Real Sociedad and Osasuna. Voices from the women’s soccer world also have spoken out, including USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney.

Rubiales also has been accused of using RFEF money to organize sex parties and to take a woman on a trip to New York, ESPN reported. And these controversies come on top of a longstanding dispute between Spanish women’s players and the federation over the national team environment and and the management style of head coach Jorge Vilda.

In his speech Friday, Rubiales doubled down on his support of Vilda, saying he plans to offer the coach a four-year contract with an annual salary of €500,000.

“You deserve it, Jorge, we’ve gone through a lot, a lot,” Rubiales said. “I’ve always said you were one of the best managers in the world in women’s football. Sincerely, I tell you you’re the best.”