Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Spain’s soccer chief to resign after unwanted kiss of female World Cup player ignites scandal exposing ‘a deep level of misogyny’

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The head of Spain’s football association will resign amid mounting criticism over his behaviour during celebrations of the country’s Women’s World Cup victory, newspaper El Pais reported.

Luis Rubiales, who has served as head of the Spanish Football association since 2018, on Thursday informed colleagues that he will leave the post on Friday, when the organization holds a general meeting, according to the news report. 

Players, politicians and the media have spent the week pushing for Rubiales’ resignation after he grabbed forward Jennifer Hermoso’s head and kissed her after the team’s victory in the World Cup final Aug. 20. He also faced backlash for grabbing his testicles during the match while celebrating a goal in the director’s box, where he was standing next to Spain’s Queen Letizia and one of her daughters. 

Several professional clubs on Thursday issued statements saying Rubiales should step down, including Club Atletico de Madrid, one of Spain’s most powerful.

A union that represents Hermoso called the actions “unacceptable,” and FIFA — the sport’s global governing body — opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales.

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez joined the criticism earlier this week, saying it showed that the country is still a long way from achieving equality, and the Spanish women’s league filed a complaint. Star US player Megan Rapinoe said the episode made her “think about how much we are required to endure,” and the obscene gestures signal “such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man.”

The scandal is the latest controversy over equality in sports, as women’s football continues to suffer from a large gender pay gap and funding shortages, with broadcasting rights and sponsorships lagging those of their male counterparts. 

The Women’s World Cap had already generated scrutiny of the sport’s leaders after FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that the world’s best women’s players can achieve pay equality if they “convince us men” first.

Rubiales initially called the kissing issue “nonsense,” but later issued a video response in which he said he needed to apologize because people outside the team did not understand that there was “no bad faith from either party in the kiss.”

Rubiales had already faced criticism for his handling of complaints that led a number of Spain’s star women’s players to boycott the World Cup over their refusal to play for coach Jorge Vilda due to his management style.

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