OT: Spain’s soccer scandal

Luis Rubiales grabs midfielder Jennifer Hermoso’s head before kissing her. Photo courtesy of The Athletic. 

JULIA LORELLI | SPORTS REPORTER| jlorelli@butler.edu

Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

After the Spanish women’s national soccer team beat England by a score of 1-0 to win their first women’s World Cup, the federation chief Luis Rubiales kissed midfielder Jennifer Hermoso, sparking a protest and conversation about consent. 

Rubiales has been head of the football federation since November 2017. He said that the kiss was consensual, but that he made a mistake. After six days, Rubiales was suspended by FIFA, lost his six-figure salary and his car and was requested to hand in his phone. He will not be allowed to use federal funds to pay for an attorney. 

Due to the fallout and consequences of Rubiales’s actions, Spain noticed a need for a change in the women’s soccer staff. They fired their head coach, Jorge Vilda on Sept. 5. Vilda has been Spain’s head coach since 2015 and was in charge when Spain won the World Cup. 

Joan Soteras, the president of the Catalan Federation and a member of the RFEF committee of regional presidents, stated that, “There have to be structural changes in women’s football. One of those could be [removing] Vilda. If it was up to me, I would [dismiss him]. A change would be the most convenient thing for the good of women’s football.” 

Many who were behind Rubiales at the beginning of this scandal are now throwing their support out the window and gathering behind Hermoso. Radio sportscaster Manolo Lama and popular sports presenter Juanma Castaño both brushed off the kiss at the beginning and have since apologized, realizing it was more than a joke or a mistake. The Royal Spanish Football Federation was also on Rubiales’ side at the beginning, but has since withdrawn their support. 

Rubiales is now calling the rallying behind Hermoso “fake feminism” and refusing to resign saying that he will “fight to the end.” This has made Hermoso supporters angrier and added more people to the cause. 

Hermoso is a forward for the national team while also playing in Mexico for Liga MX Femenil club CF Pachuca. Now, she is the center of attention in the soccer world, rallying people to another form of the #MeToo movement

Hermoso said she felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.” She has repeatedly said that she did not like it, and it was a “form of sexual violence.” 

Rubiales’s mother, Ángeles Béjar, is defending her son and has gone on a hunger strike to protest the “inhumane, bloodthirsty hunt” for him. She has locked herself in a church in Motril and plans to stay there until “justice is served.” 

Hermoso and her teammates have all resigned and will not play again until Rubilaes has been removed from his position. Several soccer teams from around the world have put their support behind Hermoso with jerseys, banners or bracelets. 

Soccer idols all over the world are speaking out against Rubiales’ behavior. Alex Morgan of the U.S. women’s national team posted that she was “disgusted by the public actions of Luis Rubiales.” 

Morgan’s teammate Megan Rapinoe said, “On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy,” in an interview with The Guardian. 

Spanish soccer icons including Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta have voiced their disapproval of Rubiales’ behavior alongside similar sentiments from soccer professionals around the world. 

The outrage has gone even further than just in the soccer world. Butler students are weighing in with their opinions. 

“That is sexual assault,” Paige Magnum, first-year speech, language and hearing sciences major, said. “It was completely unwarranted, and it is absolutely revolting. I’m heartbroken for this woman and all women who have experienced this sort of abuse.” 

Magnum is not the only student who feels this way. Many Butler students are also appalled by Rubiales’ actions. 

“It just pisses me off how a woman is at the pinnacle of her sport and then just gets kissed by her boss and has to defend herself,” first-year chemistry major Jaimie List said. “Spain won the World Cup and the main story is not that the women’s team won the World Cup, it is that a man forcefully kissed a player without consent.” 

Abby Fostveit, senior journalism and environmental studies double major, remembers feeling absolutely repulsed when she first saw Rubiales kiss Hermoso. 

“It’s not okay to touch anyone without their consent,” Fostveit said. “When I first saw it, a lot of people were defending [Rubiales] saying it was the emotion in the moment, and I don’t think that’s a valid excuse at all. This was supposed to be about their tremendous win and their overcoming of obstacles, but this story has been taken over by this disgusting act.” 

Even politicians are also getting a voice in this scandal. Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Díaz, has called for Rubiales to resign. Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has described the incident involving Hermoso as “unacceptable” and said the apology was not enough. Meanwhile the Spanish government has demanded transparency and urgent action from the football federation. 

The United Nations stepped in when the Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, “I mean how difficult is it not to kiss someone on the lips?” 

What started off as a joyous celebration turned into a public display of toxic masculinity. 


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