The mother of Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales began a hunger strike to protest calls for her son’s resignation.
Rubiales sparked outrage when he kissed Jenni Hermoso, a member of the Spanish women’s soccer team, on the lips during the World Cup medal ceremony on Aug. 20.
Rubiales initially dismissed criticism – saying the kiss was “a gesture of affection” and that no one should “pay attention to idiocy.” He ultimately issued a formal apology.
“I made a mistake,” said Rubiales. “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… 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.”
The soccer president refused to resign at a meeting on Aug. 25. He could be removed by the country’s sports tribunal.
FIFA suspended Rubiales for 90 days while its disciplinary committee investigated his conduct. He is barred from taking part in either national or international soccer-related activities.
His mother, Ángeles Béjar, told the state news agency EFE that she has begun a hunger strike at a such in southern Spain to protest the “inhumane hounding” of her son.
“Speaking outside the church in the southern town of Motril, Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz, joined his mother in calling on the player, Jenni Hermoso, to ‘tell the truth,’” reports NBC DFW. “She said the family was suffering greatly and she described Rubiales as “a beautiful person.”
The 72-year-old plans to consume only water and energy drinks during her protest.
“I will stay here as long as my body holds out. I don’t mind dying for justice because my son is a decent person and it’s not fair what they’re doing,” she said, per The Daily Mail.
Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz was the first government official to call for Rubiales’ resignation. She argued he “harassed and assaulted” Hermoso and that his “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,” said Diaz.
According to ABC News, hundreds of people have protested in Madrid and demanded Rubiales’ termination.
Hermoso has given mixed reactions to the kiss. Initially, she said she did not like the interaction when asked about the incident by local media. Later Hermoso said it was “no big deal” while speaking to Cadena COPE and called the interaction a “natural gesture, of affection and gratitude” during an interview with EFE.
Last week, the player said “she considered herself the victim of abuse of power and accused the Spanish soccer federation of trying to pressure her into supporting Rubiales,” reports AP News. The Spanish soccer federation denied her allegations.