Regional representatives of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) late on Monday demanded the immediate resignation of the body’s President Luis Rubiales for grabbing player Jenni Hermoso and kissing her on the lips at the World Cup.
Many of the representatives had initially applauded Rubiales when he announced on Friday he would not quit, but are now asking him to step down after the country’s High Court prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation on whether Rubiales might have committed an act of sexual aggression.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said the court had received several complaints but would launch a full inquiry only if Hermoso sought one. Hermoso has said she did not want to be kissed.
“Following recent events and the unacceptable behaviour that has seriously damaged Spanish football’s image, the (regional) presidents demand that Luis Rubiales immediately resign,” the representatives said in a statement.
The about-turn at the federation added pressure on Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on Saturday amid a furore over the incident at the presentation ceremony following Spain’s World Cup win in Sydney on August 20.
Rubiales, 46, has refused to step down, saying the kiss — which took place in a live broadcast — was consensual. His mother is holed up in a church in the family’s hometown of Motril and has started a hunger strike in support of her son.
Hermoso, her team mates and the Spanish government say the kiss was unwanted and demeaning.
The situation has spiralled into a national row over women’s rights, macho behaviour and sexual abuse with many acting ministers asking for Rubiales to leave.
Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz demanded the dismissal of the head coaches of both men’s and women’s national squads.
“What footballer Jenni Hermoso experienced should never have happened,” Diaz said in a video statement prior to a meeting with the women’s players’ union.
In the evening, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Madrid at protests called by feminist groups in support of Hermoso and against Rubiales.
People called for his resignation, chanting: “It’s not a kiss, it is aggression.”
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that sexism was still a critical issue in sport and urged the Spanish authorities and government to deal “with this in a manner that respects the rights of all female athletes.”
“How difficult is it not to kiss somebody on the lips? I don’t see any indication that anything was consensual,” Dujarric added.
The Sports Administrative Court was due to decide whether to take up a case against Rubiales after an extraordinary meeting on Monday.
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