Spain’s under-fire soccer chief Luis Rubiales remained defiant Friday, saying he made “some obvious mistakes” but had been treated unfairly over his unwanted kiss with a star player.
Rubiales has been under mounting pressure to resign after kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s victory in the Women’s World Cup in Sydney last month.
He has insisted the act was consensual, a claim Hermoso firmly rejects, with the player calling it an “impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.”
In a statement published widely on Spanish media, Rubiales – president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – lashed out at a “manufactured campaign” against him while saying he has also received great support from people on the streets and on social media.
“Last August 20th I made some obvious mistakes, which I regret sincerely, from the heart. It is true that for such errors I have asked for forgiveness,” Rubiales said in the Friday statement.
“I have learned that no matter how great the joy and deep the emotion, even when A WORLD CUP IS WON, sports leaders must be required to exhibit exemplary behavior, and mine wasn’t,” he continued, adding he was apologizing to players, the federation, fans and anyone who may have been offended by his actions.
However, Rubiales said both sides consented “in the affectionate hugs” and “affectionate mutual gestures,” which took place on the stage during the presentation of the World Cup medals.
Rubiales’ comments, his first in days, came after the Spanish government suffered a setback in its attempts to remove Rubiales from his post.
Spain’s Court of Arbitration in Sport (TAD) on Friday agreed to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his offenses were “very serious,” preventing his immediate suspension and forcing ministers to ask the tribunal to do it instead.
In response, the Minister of Culture and Sport Miquel Iceta said at a press conference he would submit a separate complaint to TAD and request Rubiales be removed from his post until the investigation is resolved.
Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, from all soccer-related activities for 90 days, but under Spanish law the government cannot suspend him unless TAD deems his offenses “very serious.”
The court ruling and Rubiales’ continued defiance means a storm that has engulfed Spanish soccer is set to rumble on.
Members of the Women’s World Cup-winning team are refusing to play until he is removed. This week Rubiales’ mother went on hunger strike to support her son and was briefly hospitalized.
Pressure on Rubiales to step down from his position as RFEF president intensified after he dramatically refused to do so during a speech at the federation’s Extraordinary General Assembly last Friday, vowing to “fight to the end.”
Also this week all 19 of the Spanish federation’s regional presidents called for Rubiales to resign while also offering unanimous support for interim president Pedro Rocha, who stepped into the role following Rubiales’ suspension by FIFA.
There are questions also over Jorge Vilda, coach of Spain’s Women’s World Cup-winning squad, with the interim RFEF boss suggesting he may not be long for the role. Despite the win his tenure has been controversial.