Spanish football chief Rubiales refuses to quit over player kiss
Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales refused to resign on Friday after a week of widespread criticism for his unsolicited kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso following Spain's Women's World Cup triumph.
Rubiales, 46, had been expected to step down as president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) after government ministers and sports figures demanded his resignation and FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against him.
But he was defiant in a speech at an emergency meeting of the football federation.
"I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign," shouted Rubiales.
"A consensual 'peck' is enough to get me out of here? I will fight until the end," he added.
Rubiales said the pressure he has received this week was an attempt "to publicly assassinate me".
His words were applauded at the meeting by controversial Spain's women's coach Jorge Vilda.
Rubiales claimed he had been trying to console Hermoso, who missed a penalty in the final against England.
"She was the one who lifted me in her arms and brought me close to her body, we hugged, and I told her, 'forget about the penalty. You were fantastic, without you we would not have won this World Cup.'
"She said to me, 'you're a star', and I said to her, a peck? and she said, 'OK'."
"It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual, euphoric, and consensual," Rubiales continued.
Hermoso had released a statement Wednesday saying women players' union Futpro were defending her interests. Futpro, in turn, said Rubiales' actions should not go "unpunished".
On Friday, the RFEF chief railed against "false feminism" and said he had been "hunted" since taking the job in May 2018.
"When I make a mistake it hurts me and I ask for forgiveness without softening it, but I do not deserve this hunt that I have been suffering for five years, every day for five years.
"I'm going to keep fighting like my parents taught me, like my coaches, my teammates."
Rubiales insisted his kiss could not be compared to sexual assault.
"For god's sake, what will women think who have really been sexually assaulted?" said Rubiales.
His refusal to resign and his fiery speech prompted a rapid reaction from politicians.
"What we have seen today at the federation assembly is unacceptable," wrote second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz on social network X, formerly known as Twitter.
"The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office."
A source at Madrid's prosecutor's office told AFP a complaint of "an alleged crime of sexual assault" made by the country's football coaching school president Miguel Galan had been sent to Spain's National Court.
The country's High Council of Sport (CSD) said it would take action against Rubiales. It promised to submit complaints it had received about the incident to the Spanish Sports Court (TAD).
"I think that this could be the 'Me Too' of Spanish football," CSD president Victor Francos told a news conference, explaining he would be able to suspend Rubiales if TAD decides to initiate proceedings against him.
Hermoso's international team-mates, including two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas and the World Cup's player of the tournament Aitana Bonmati, showed their support for her.
"This is unacceptable. It's over. With you, Jenni Hermoso," Putellas wrote on X.
Bonmati added: "There are limits that you cannot cross and we cannot tolerate this. We are with you, team-mate."
Spain's men's players joined the protest too -- Borja Iglesias retired from international football in protest at Rubiales' decision.
La Liga president Javier Tebas, who has frequently sparred with Rubiales, was heavily critical of the Andalucian.
"The misogynistic gestures, foul expressions, disastrous protocol and insults of this latest global embarrassment come as no surprise," said Tebas on X.
"The list of women and men wronged by Luis Rubiales in these years is too long and this must stop."
Rubiales did offer one apology -- for grabbing his crotch during the celebrations of the 1-0 win against England in the final while standing next to Spain's Queen Letizia.
"I want to say sorry for the deeds that happened in a moment of euphoria, I grabbed that part of my body and did so looking at Jorge Vilda," he said on Friday.
"Of course I have to apologise, to the Queen ... and to everyone else who has felt offended."
Along with the presidents of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, among other clubs, the Spanish players' association (AFE), which Rubiales formerly chaired, had called for him to step down.
Rubiales also said he had started the process of offering coach Vilda a new deal on a 500,000-euro ($540,000) annual salary.