MADRID (AP) — Spanish footballer Jenni Hermoso has accused Luis Rubiales of sexual assault for kiss her on the lips without her consent after the final of the Women’s World Cup, the country’s prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday.
Rubiales, the now suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, kissed Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England to win the title on August 20 in Sydney, Australia.
Rubiales insisted the kiss was consensual. Hermoso denied this in statements released by her and her players union. She also said she and her family were pressured by the federation to show their support for Rubiales in the aftermath of the kiss scandal that tarnished his team’s victory.
The Madrid prosecutor’s office said that under a law on sexual consent passed last year, Rubiales could be fined or jailed for between one and four years if found guilty. THE new law eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault”, punishing any non-consensual sexual act.
The Spanish government, players’ unions, players and many citizens have expressed their support for Hermoso. Rubiales, meanwhile, has become a soccer pariah even if he refuses to resign.
Rubiales suspended from his post by FIFA on August 27, a day after refusing to step down after delivering a defiant speech to the general assembly of his federation in which he said he was the victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists”. Rubiales was suspended from his duties for 90 days while the disciplinary judges of the instance examine his case. FIFA can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
Rubiales, 46, also faces measures from the Spanish government. A government legal committee overseeing the sport has launched an investigation into whether he abused his authority by kissing Hermoso or tarnished Spain’s image with his conduct. He risks being deemed unfit to hold office for up to two years.
He could potentially face a vote of no confidence from the federation, a step the institution has yet to take despite asking him to step down.
But Hermoso’s decision represents Rubiales’ biggest challenge so far as it could lead to criminal proceedings.
The prosecutor’s office said Hermoso filed the charge on Tuesday. Prosecutors announced last week that they would meet with Hermoso to give him the opportunity to present a charge against Rubiales. The federation’s interim president, Pedro Rocha, is seen as an ally of Rubiales.
In his Aug. 26 speech to the federation assembly, Rubiales said the kiss was “mutual” and that “I could give it to one of my daughters.”
Hermoso responded by saying it was a lie.
“I felt vulnerable and the victim of an impulsive, sexist and inappropriate act, without any consent on my part,” Hermoso said in a statement posted on social media. “Put simply, I was disrespected.”
Hermoso, a 33-year-old striker, now plays for Mexican club Pachuca after a long career with top Spanish and European clubs including Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.
Rubiales’ behavior in the final, which included a lewd crotch grab while next to dignitaries including the Queen and the teenage Princess of Spain, combined with his controversial speech tore Spanish football apart.
Tuesday, the federation dismissed the coach of the Spanish women’s world champion team, Jorge Vilda. Although she led the team to the title, Vilda was still considered an unpopular figure among her players and close to Rubiales. A year ago, 15 players said they wouldn’t play for him until he created a more professional working environment.
After Rubiales refused to quit last week and accused Hermoso of lying, the entire World Cup-winning squad along with dozens of other players said they would not play for Spain again until departure of the president.
Spain’s men’s team was also affected. Coach Luis de la Fuente had to ask for forgiveness for applauding Rubiales’ sexist speech at the general assembly. His players also condemned Rubiales’ behavior in a statement.
So far, there are no signs that the players are ready to return to the team even after Vilda’s departure.
Spain’s left-wing government and its players hope the backlash against Rubiales can lead to a settling of scores with sexism in football.
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