Two weeks after Spanish Football Federation chief Luis Rubiales kissed a women’s soccer player after the World Cup final without consent—sparking widespread condemnation and Rubiales’s suspension from FIFA—the Spain men’s team released a statement condemning his behavior.
The Spanish men’s team captains read the statement to members of the media on Monday, saying the team rejects Rubiales’ “unacceptable behavior” that “tarnished” the victory of the Spanish women’s team.
The statement continued that the men “unequivocally stand on the side of the values that this sport represents”—namely respect, inspiration, inclusion, and diversity—and ended by saying the team would “like to focus on sporting matters from now on” as they prepare to qualify for Euro 2024.
Rubiales has been under criticism for weeks after he kissed Spanish footballer Jenni Hermoso following her team’s win at the World Cup in August—Hermoso later said the kiss was unwanted, which prompted a global controversy over Rubiales’ future.
FIFA suspended Rubiales from all soccer activity for 90 days, and he is under investigation by the Spanish government—though that investigation hit a bump when the Administrative Sports Court ruled the offense was “serious” rather than “very serious,” preventing Rubiales’ from being immediately suspended.
Following the World Cup win Rubiales has received public and regulatory backlash for kissing Hermoso, and for grabbing his crotch during the game and hugging and kissing other players. Hermoso released a statement days after the game in which she said she “felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part”; she has since received support from fellow players on the Spain women’s national football team who said they refuse to play further matches until Rubiales resigns. Some reports initially said Rubiales planned to resign, but he later said that he would not back down and claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists.” He has continued to defend himself against widespread criticism, claiming the kiss was consensual. As part of his 90-day suspension from FIFA, Rubiales must “refrain, through himself or third parties,” from contacting Hermoso.
Last week, Rubiales’ mother Angeles Bejar was hospitalized after a multi-day hunger strike protesting the “inhumane treatment” of her son. Two days before the hospitalization, Bejar announced the “indefinite” hunger strike, saying she wouldn’t eat until the end of what she called an “inhuman and bloody hunt” against her son who “does not deserve” it.