Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation, said he “made a mistake” and apologized for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony.
Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the first time on Sunday in Sydney, beating England 1-0. The players and coaches then walked individually across the stage at Stadium Australia to collect their medals.
Rubiales was on hand to deliver enthusiastic congratulations, which usually consisted of huge hugs (with Rubiales lifting several players off the floor) and kisses on the cheek and/or neck.
But his interaction with Hermoso, a standout midfielder, was far too enthusiastic. After hugging the player as usual, Rubiales placed his hands on either side of her head, pulled her to him and kissed her on the lips.
The incident can be seen shortly after 47:00 in the following video:
Hermoso appears to be the only person to have kissed Rubiales in this way. She was later seen in one Instagram live videoShe apparently laughed at the incident with her teammates, saying in Spanish, “I didn’t like it” and “What should I do?”
Rubiales was widely criticized for this gesture. “It is unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her,” Spain’s acting minister for sport and culture, Miquel Iceta, told public broadcaster RNE.
The Minister for Equality of the Spanish Government, Irene MonteroShe tweeted, “It’s a form of sexual violence that women suffer on a daily basis that has been invisible and that we shouldn’t normalize.”
The Spanish Football Federation tried to calm the situation on Sunday by releasing a statement quoting Hermoso as saying: “It was a completely spontaneous mutual gesture because of the great joy of having won a World Cup.” The President and I have a great relationship, his behavior towards all of us was excellent and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
Hermoso later told the radio show El Tiempo de Juego on Cadena COPE, “She wasn’t expecting” to be kissed on the lips, but “it was because of the emotion of the moment, there’s nothing left.” It’s only going to be remain an anecdote [of the time]. I’m absolutely sure it won’t blow up any more.”
Rubiales was also questioned by Radio Marca on Sunday about the incident. “The kiss with Jenni?” he replied. “There are idiots everywhere. When two people have a moment of affection without any meaning, we cannot listen to idiocy. We are champions and I stand by it.”
The next day, however, the Spanish Football Federation posted a video Rubiales apologized for the incident.
“There is something I regret and it happened between me and a player … who, like others, I have a great relationship with,” Rubiales said in Spanish. “I have to admit I made a mistake because in a moment of maximum euphoria, with no ill intentions or ill intentions on either side, what happened happened.
“Here we took it as something normal, but outside it seemed to have caused an uproar. It seems people were offended by this and I have to apologize.”