Spain’s soccer federation stands by its chief Rubiales

Spain’s soccer federation said on Saturday it would take legal action to defend its president, Luis Rubiales, on Saturday even as he faces a storm of criticism for grabbing star player Jenni Hermoso’s head and kissing her on the lips after Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory.

In a statement issued in the early hours the federation said it would show there have been lies about what happened by Hermoso or people speaking for her. The statement on the Royal Spanish Football Federation website said it would take legal action to defend Rubiales’ honour, but did not say what the action would consist of.

Rubiales refused on Friday to resign as RFEF chief over his actions last Sunday in Sydney, seeking to defend his behaviour and calling the kiss “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual”.

Hermoso said she did not consent to the kiss and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression”.

She has won the support of the Spanish government, which while it cannot fire Rubiales has strongly denounced his actions and is moving to get him suspended using a legal procedure before a sports tribunal.

The Spain women’s team has also mutinied. In a joint statement sent via their FUTPRO union on Friday evening, all 23 of the cup-winning squad including Hermoso, as well as 32 other squad members, said they would not play internationals while Rubiales remains head of the federation.

In the same statement, Hermoso denied Rubiales’ contention that the kiss he gave her was consensual, writing, “I want to clarify that, as was seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me and, of course, in no case did I seek to lift the president”.

In its statement early on Saturday, the federation said: “The RFEF and the President, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from the FUTPRO Union, will initiate the corresponding legal actions.”

“Where there is rule of law … opinions are counteracted with facts and evidence, and lies are rebutted in court.”

“The RFEF and the President will show each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself,” it said.

The statement was accompanied by four photos of the event last Sunday that it said illustrated Rubiales’ contention that Hermoso lifted him by the hips.

Reuters could not immediately reach an official of the FUTPRO union by telephone for comment.

Rubiales had been widely expected to resign at an emergency meeting of the federation on Friday. Instead he said repeatedly that he would not quit and complained that “false feminists” were “trying to kill me”.

Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz called his speech “unacceptable”. She wrote on social media: “The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting against sexual abuse and violence.

The Socialist-led coalition government has presided over legal reforms including around equal pay, abortion, sex work and transgender rights.

Rubiales’ comments and the supportive reaction he got from many in the audience at the federation meeting on Friday were widely scorned on social media. The losing England national team said: “We all stand with you, @jennihermoso and all players of the Spanish team”.

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