Spain’s soccer federation will meet urgently on Monday as its president, Luis Rubiales, faces a FIFA suspension and a storm of criticism over allegations he gave a player an unwanted kiss on the lips following Spain’s victory in the Women’s World Cup.
Rubiales has steadfastly refused to resign over the incident with player Jenni Hermoso last Sunday in Sydney, saying the kiss was consensual. Players and a string of coaches on the women’s squad are demanding he go, and the government also wants him out.
The Royal Football Federation (RFEF) has called regional federations to an “extraordinary and urgent” meeting on Monday “to evaluate the situation in which the federation finds itself” following Rubiales’ suspension, an RFEF spokesperson said on Sunday.
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday and announced on Saturday that Rubiales was suspended for three months from national and international soccer pending an investigation.
Rubiales, 46, said he would use the FIFA probe to show his innocence.
Hermoso, who has said she did not consent to the kiss and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression,” has been warmly supported not just by players but by many in wider society.
She appeared among spectators at the Women’s Cup final between Atletico Madrid and Milan on Saturday evening, applauded by the crowd. Players at the match held a banner reading: “With you Jennifer Hermoso.”
The uproar over the kiss has come in a country where tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches in recent years protesting against sexual abuse and violence.
Feminist groups have called a demonstration on Monday in Madrid entitled “With You Jenni” in support of the player.
Similar demonstrations were staged by feminist groups in Madrid, Santander and Logrono on Saturday calling for Rubiales’ resignation.
All 23 of Spain’s cup-winning squad including Hermoso, as well as dozens of other squad members, said on Friday they would not play internationals while Rubiales remained head of the federation.
On Saturday, 11 members of the national women’s team’s coaching staff offered their resignations to the RFEF in a statement supporting Hermoso and condemning Rubiales.
The Spanish government cannot fire Rubiales but has strongly denounced his actions and said on Friday it was seeking to get him suspended using a legal procedure before a sports tribunal.
Victor Francos, head of the state-run National Sports Council, has called the incident a MeToo moment for Spain. However, he said on Saturday that the scandal would not damage Spain’s bid to stage the 2030 World Cup along with Portugal and Morocco.