The head of Spain’s soccer federation has publicly apologized for kissing a female player on the lips during a trophy ceremony.
The player, Jenni Hermoso, is a member of the Spanish women’s soccer team that defeated England in the Women’s World Cup. After receiving a medal from Fifa president Gianni Infantino, Hermoso was hugged and lifted off her feet by Royal Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales.
Rubiales then put Hermoso down, the two had a brief conversation, and then Rubiales wrapped his arms around the player and kissed her.
RFEF President Luis Rubiales kissed former Barça Femení player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the ceremony, after winning the World Cup… Hermoso later said that she did not enjoy it. pic.twitter.com/CtUAMoRRjQ
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) August 20, 2023
Video and photos of the interaction were widely shared online, where Rubiales was denounced for acting inappropriately.
Rubiales repeatedly dismissed concerns about the kiss.
“There are idiots everywhere,” he said in one interview when asked about the now controversial moment, per NBC News. “When two people have a gesture of affection, that isn’t important, we can’t pay attention to idiocy. We’re [world] champions and I’ll focus on that.”
Hermoso was asked about the kiss by Spain’s La 1 and seemed less perturbed than the general public.
“Yeah, I did not enjoy that,” the 33-year-old replied. She later told Spanish media outlet Cadena COPE that the kiss was “no big deal.
“It was a mutual, totally spontaneous gesture because of the huge joy of winning a World Cup,” she said, per Fox News. “The ‘presi’ and I have a great relationship. His behavior with us has been a ’10.’ It was a natural gesture, of affection and gratitude … We’ve won a World Cup, and we won’t get away from what’s important.”
On Aug. 21, Rubliales released a video statement apologizing for the moment.
“I made a mistake, for sure,” Rubiales said, according to a translation from Pro Soccer Wire. “I have to accept it. In a moment of such emotion, without any bad intention or bad faith, what happened, happened, in a very spontaneous way. [There was] no bad faith from either side.”
“Here we saw it as something natural and normal. But on the outside it has caused a stir, because people have felt hurt by it, so I have to apologize; there’s no alternative,” he added. “I’m also saddened, because this is the biggest success in our history in women’s football, the second World Cup that we’ve won, and this has affected the celebration.”
Despite the apology, Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz has called for Rubiales’ resignation. Diaz has said Hermoso was “harassed and assaulted” and that the federation president’s “excuses are useless.”
“What we ask is for the sports law to be applied and for the Sport’s federation protocols to be activated. This person should resign,” she said, per ESPN.