The head of Spain’s soccer federation issued a video apology Monday after he was roundly critiized for kissing star player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips a day earlier during a trophy presentation ceremony for the 2023 World Cup champions.
Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales was congratulating each team member after Spain defeated England 1-0 in Sunday’s final in Sydney, Australia, and when it came time to greet to one of La Roja’s star players, he bestowed a bit more affection on Hermoso.
“I didn’t like it,” Spain’s all-time leading scorer said in an Instagram post, according to the BBC.
In an interview with Spanish broadcaster COPE, Rubiales looked to minimize the controversy as it bubbled up on social media, saying it was “a kiss between two friends celebrating something.” He added that those who saw it differently were “idiots and stupid people.”
However, criticism continued to mount, and Rubiales acknowledged in Monday’s statement — according to a Pro Soccer Wire translation — that “on the outside it has caused a stir, because people have felt hurt by it, so I have to apologize; there’s no alternative.”
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He characterized his interaction with Hermoso as “something natural and normal,” but as president of the national federation he conceded he must be held to a higher standard.
“I made a mistake, for sure,” Rubiales said. “I have to accept it. In a moment of such emotion, without any bad intention or bad faith, what happened, happened, in a very spontaneous way. [There was] no bad faith from either side.”
The incident came after the Spanish women won their first World Cup title – and on the heels of a player revolt last September against coach Jorge Vilda in which 15 players revolted in protest over what they called an unprofessional training environment.
As the latest controversy continued to gather steam Sunday, Spain’s equalities minister criticized Rubiales’ actions.
“It’s a form of sexual violence women suffer on a daily basis,” Irene Montero said. “We should not assume kissing without consent is something ‘that happens.’ “