Luis Rubiales, the president of Spain’s soccer federation, said he “made a mistake” and has 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 with a 1-0 win over England on Sunday in Sydney. Afterward, the players and coaches individually walked across a stage at Stadium Australia to receive their medals.
Rubiales was on hand to offer enthusiastic congratulations, which usually consisted of enormous bear hugs (with Rubiales lifting several players off the ground in the process) and kisses on the cheek and/or neck.
But his interaction with Hermoso, a standout midfielder, was way too enthusiastic. After giving the player a standard bear hug, Rubiales put his hands on either side of her head, pulled her in and kissed her on the lips.
The incident can be seen just after the 47:00 mark in the below video:
Hermoso appears to be the only person who was kissed by Rubiales in such a manner. She later was seen in an Instagram live video, apparently laughing with her teammates at the incident and saying in Spanish, “I didn’t like it,” and “What do I do?”
Rubiales has been largely criticized for the gesture. “It is unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her,” Spain’s acting minister for sports and culture, Miquel Iceta, told public broadcaster RNE.
The Spanish government’s equality minister, Irene Montero, tweeted: “It is a form of sexual violence that women suffer on a daily basis, and which has been invisible so far, and which we should not normalize.”
The Spanish soccer federation attempted to smooth over the situation Sunday by releasing a statement quoting Hermoso as saying: “It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture due to the immense joy of winning a World Cup. The president and I have a great relationship, his behavior with all of us has been excellent and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
Later, Hermoso told the radio program “El Tiempo de Juego” on Cadena COPE, “she didn’t expect” to be kissed on the lips but “it was because of the emotion of the moment, there’s nothing more there. It’s just going to be an anecdote [of the time]. I’m absolutely sure it won’t be blown up more.”
Rubiales also was asked about the incident Sunday by Radio Marca. “The kiss with Jenni?” he replied. “There are idiots all over. When two people have a moment of affection without any importance, we can’t listen to idiocy. We’re champions and I stay with that.”
The next day, however, the Spanish soccer federation released a video with Rubiales apologizing for the incident.
“There is something I regret and that is what happened between me and a player … with whom I have a magnificent relationship, as I do with others,” Rubiales said in Spanish. “I have to admit I made a mistake because, in a moment of maximum euphoria, without any bad intentions or bad faith on either side, what happened happened.
“Here, we saw it as something normal, but outside it seems to have caused an uproar. It seems people have been offended by this and I have to apologize.”