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Luis Rubiales has finally resigned… announcing his decision on Piers Morgan, of course

Luis Rubiales has finally resigned… announcing his decision on Piers Morgan, of course


by Sarah Gill
11th Sep 2023

During the medals ceremony for Spain’s first-ever Women’s World Cup victory, an impromptu kiss was planted on star player Jennifer Hermoso’s lips by Royal Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales. Voracious calls for Rubiales to resign ensued with the Spanish team even refusing to play until he did. This week, he finally did.

On Sunday 20 August, Spain beat England 1-0 and claimed their first-ever Women’s World Cup title. But as the Spanish squad lined up onstage in Sydney to collect their medals and lift the trophy, jubilation became momentarily dimmed when the president of Spain’s soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, took the opportunity to wrap his arms around star forward Jenni Hermoso, embracing her tightly, before holding her head between his palms and kissing her squarely on the mouth.

It was an exchange that lasted no more than a brief moment, but the incident sparked a much larger conversation, in turn overshadowing the history-making win entirely. Back in the changing rooms in the immediate aftermath, Hermoso was filmed saying that she “didn’t like it” in an Instagram Live video that has since been clipped and shared across social media. Later on the Live, she was asked, “But what were you doing, sis?” to which the 33-year-old replied: “But what am I supposed to do?”

Seriously though, what was she supposed to do? Cause a fuss and she’s a bad sport, brush it under the carpet and she’s a bad feminist. It’s a catch-22 and one that women are faced with all too regularly.

The immediate aftermath

After voracious uproar from the public, Rubiales issued a statement in which he said: “I surely made a mistake, I have to recognise that. In a moment of elation, without any intention of bad faith, well, what happened happened — I think in a very spontaneous way. I repeat, there was no bad faith between either of the two of us.”

“Here, we didn’t understand it because we saw something natural, normal and in no way, I repeat, with bad faith. But outside of the bubble, it looks like it has turned into a storm and so, if there are people who have felt offended, I have to say I’m sorry.”

Speaking on Spanish radio station, Cadena COPE, Hermoso confirmed that she “didn’t expect” the kiss, but that “it was because of the emotion of the moment, there’s nothing more there. It’s just going to be an anecdote. I’m absolutely sure it won’t be blown up anymore.” In a statement given to EFE, via Cadena SER, Hermoso went on to say, “It was a mutual gesture, totally spontaneous due to the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings. The president and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”

“People shouldn’t second guess a gesture of friendship and gratitude, we have won a World Cup and we are not going to deviate from what is important,” she continued. However, people weren’t entirely convinced by the statement with many speculating that it had been written by the communications department for the Spanish women’s national team, not Hermoso. It also emerged that Rubiales requested Hermoso join him in his joint video statement, which she refused to do.

Naturally, the conversation surrounding the entire situation has divided fans all across the world. Where some called for Rubiales to resign, others brushed it off as an innocent, innocuous, inoffensive display of enthusiastic jubilation… but I ask you, would he have kissed the star forward of the men’s squad in that same way? Mouth to mouth, with his hands pressed against either side of his face?

56 players, including all 23 players of the World Cup-winning squad, signed a joint statement after Rubiales refused to resign, attempting to legitimise his actions by claiming that Hermoso had said he could give her “a little peck”.

Jenni Hermoso’s official statement

Shortly after, Hermoso posted her own official statement on Instagram, writing, “I feel obligated to say that the words of Mr Luis Rubiales explaining the unfortunate event are categorically false and part of the manipulative culture he has created.

“I want to make clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and above all, was his kiss ever consensual. I want to reiterate, as I did before, that I did not like this incident. 

“The situation shocked me given the celebrations that were taking place at the moment, and with the passage of time and after delving a little deeper into those initial feelings, I feel the need to report this incident because I believe that no person in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours. I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act without any consent on my part. Simply put, I was not respected.”

Going on to say that she has been under constant pressure to play down Rubiales’ actions and essentially just grin and bear it, Hermoso later added: “I am sure that as the World Champion, we as a team do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile and controlling culture. These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing in recent years… I want to reinforce the position I took from the beginning, considering that I do not have to support the person who has committed this action against my will, without respecting me, at a historic moment for me and for women’s sports in this country. “

The #MeToo of Spanish soccer

Though Rubiales could not be sacked by the government, the head of the state-run Sports Council, Victor Francos, told the public that it intended to use a legal procedure in a sports tribunal.  “We want this to be a ‘Me Too’ of Spanish soccer,” he said. Senior members of Spain’s FA also said that they planned on carrying out a “deep and imminent organic restructuring” of the body in the wake of the controversy. “It’s over, no more discrimination for women,” Spain’s acting sports minister Miquel Iceta commented last month. “We are witnessing a real social and sporting backlash.”

The FIFA Disciplinary Code responded by provisionally suspending Rubiales from all football-related activities at both national and international level.     

In an attempt to defend her son, Rubiales’ 72-year-old mother — Ángeles Béjar — locked herself in the Divina Pastora church in Motril, southern Spain, and declared a hunger strike, saying that she wouldn’t stop until there was a solution for the “inhuman and bloody hunt they are conducting against my son”.

After two days, Béjar was admitted to the Santa Ana hospital in Motril for tiredness and stress, however, she was discharged later that same evening after a visit from Rubiales. 

Rubiales’ resignation 

Yesterday, after weeks of controversy, Rubiales finally resigned – announcing his decision on none other than Piers Morgan Uncensored. Of course.

Asked what led him to make the decision to quit, Rubiales responded by saying, “My father, my daughters, I spoke with them… Some friends, very close to me, they say, ‘Luis, you have to focus on your dignity and to continue your life, because you know probably that you are going to damage people you love to land the sport you love.’

“But this is more a question of not only me, the attitude of me can affect third parties that are very important.”

Sharing a copy of his resignation letter on X (formerly Twitter), Rubiales wrote: “I will defend my honour. I will defend my innocence. I have faith in the future. I have faith in the truth. Thank you all.”

Rubiales also resigned as one of UEFA’s vice presidents. According to him, the suspension by FIFA and other proceedings meant that he could not return to his role and that trying to hold on to the position would not lead to “anything positive”.

Prior to the announcement, the World Cup-winning women’s team said they would refuse to play until Rubiales had resigned. The UK’s Lionesses – who played Spain in the final – supported the players’ boycott, commenting: “Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation. Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth.

“The behaviour of those who think they are invincible must not be tolerated and people shouldn’t need convincing to take action against any form of harassment. We all stand with you.”

Hermoso had also filed a complaint with the Spanish prosecutor’s office accusing Rubiales of sexual assault. It is up to the court to present formal charges but if found guilty, Rubiales could face criminal charges ranging from a fine to a prison term of between one and four years in Spain. According to Sky Sports, prosecutors have also suggested that Rubiales could have committed an act of coercion given that he allegedly pressured Hermoso to speak out in his defence immediately after the scandal erupted regarding his behaviour.

Prosecutors have asked the judge that Rubiales appear before a court to give preliminary testimony. If the National Court judge agrees the hear the case, it would lead to a formal court investigation that will end with a recommendation for the case to either be dismissed or go to trial.

Parting thoughts 

The whole thing speaks to a patriarchal entitlement so ingrained in our society and is likely something that deflated Jenni Hermoso before her celebrations had even truly begun.

Isn’t it one of the first things children are taught when they’re entering the world? Keep your hands to yourself, don’t invade someone else’s personal space, get consent before you touch someone? It really is exceedingly simple, and regardless of whether or not there was any ‘bad faith’ intended, wouldn’t it have been easier to just… not have kissed her?

We’ve seen different versions of this play out in a number of different iterations. At last year’s Oscars, Will Smith upstaged the achievements of a whole host of worthy winners with his display of toxic masculinity. At the 2009 VMAs, Kanye West stormed the stage to let Taylor Swift know that he was gonna let her finish, but it was actually Beyoncé who deserved the title of Best Video by a Female Artist.

Think back to 1945, when a photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt entitled V-J Day in Times Square was published in Life magazine showing a U.S. Navy sailor celebrating his homecoming from World War II by embracing and kissing total stranger Greta Friedman. It’s a famous photo that somehow became emblematic of spontaneity and romance – there was even a monument erected in its honour – and it’s that same trope of a man grabbing the nearest woman to kiss in a moment of great glee that has been mimicked and caricatured in film and television countless times over the years. In 2005, Friedman, the nurse who was forcibly kissed by a sailor in Times Square, told an interviewer, “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed.” Continuing, she said that the sailor “just came over and grabbed!” In local news footage, she said: “I mean somebody much bigger than you and much stronger, where you’ve lost control of yourself, I’m not sure that makes you happy.” Intently remembered as celebratory post-war romps, the reality of the moment is far more complex.

Obviously, women are not surfaces onto which men may project their emotions. We are not empty vessels that are ready and willing to be raised above the head in an act of celebration. Rubiales was happy, so he kissed Hermoso because she was standing in front of him. Not a prop, but a player collecting her medal. And yet somehow, this has become a blot on her copybook, through zero fault of her own.

Feature image via FIFA.