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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Spain’s soccer chief apologises for World Cup kiss

The head of Spain's soccer federation issued a video apology Monday after he was roundly critiized for kissing star player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips a day earlier during a trophy presentation ceremony for the 2023 World Cup champions.

The Spanish soccer federation president apologized on Monday after an unsolicited kiss he planted on player Jenni Hermoso’s lips during celebrations of the country’s Women’s World Cup victory sparked outrage in Spain.

The incident happened as federation chief Luis Rubiales handed the Spanish team gold medals after they beat England 1-0 in the final on Sunday. “Surely I was wrong, I have to admit,” Rubiales said in a video statement sent by the federation. “It was without bad faith at a time of maximum effusiveness.”

Read more: El Rocío Pilgrimage: A Sacred Journey of Faith and Cultural Celebration in Spain

Hermoso told teammates afterwards in the locker room that she “didn’t like it,” according to video footage posted on Instagram and YouTube by El Mundo newspaper and other media outlets. She later downplayed the incident in a statement sent to Spanish news agency EFE by the federation. “It was a mutual gesture that was totally spontaneous prompted by the huge joy of winning a World Cup,” the statement said.

“The ‘presi’ and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has always been 10 (out of 10) and this was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.” Post-game video footage also depicts Rubiales kissing other players on the cheek or embracing them when handing out the medals.

Gender issues are a powerful topic in Spain. The Socialist-led government has presided over a raft of legal reforms around gender change, abortion and sex work, but a loophole in its law around sexual consent let rapists out of jail, resulting in a significant electoral loss by Montero’s far-left Podemos party, in the government coalition, in July’s election.

Asked again about the incident on Spain’s COPE Radio station, Hermoso said: “I wish they created (controversy) involving someone else, I’m a world champion and that’s what matters.” Several government ministers and media commentators criticized the gesture.