The FIFA Women's World Cup final was a moment to celebrate the sporting achievements of women, with the Spanish women's national football team taking to the podium to mark their first-ever global win after they beat England's Lionesses 1-0 on Sunday 20 August. However, the Spaniards' celebration was accompanied by backlash on social media, at the manner in which Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, behaved towards the team.
While celebrating their victory, the Spanish team was greeted by a series of dignitaries, including the Spanish royal family and Rubiales, who gave out medals and congratulated the players on their win.
Rubiales was seen offering warm embraces to the entire team, even lifting some players into the air. However, when it came to the turn of Jennifer Hermoso – a forward for the Spanish national team – the president wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in for a kiss on the lips.
In an Instagram Live streamed by teammate Salma Paralluelo from the locker room later that evening, Hermoso – who has played for teams including Atlético de Madrid, Barcelona and her current club, C.F. Pachuca throughout her nearly two-decade-long football career – can be seen discussing the kiss, saying (in Spanish), "I didn't like it. What could I do?"
During the livestream, other players and staff members can be heard discussing the incident, with one jokingly asking if Rubiales "used his tongue".
#PolémicaRubiales | "No me ha gustado, eh. Pero, ¿qué hago yo? Mírame a mí": la reacción de la futbolista española Jenni Hermoso delata que no hubo consentimiento en el beso de Luis Rubiales pic.twitter.com/XLKmV83Ret
— Espacio Andaluz (@EspacioAndaluz) August 20, 2023
Later, in the same livestream, Rubiales can be seen entering the locker room and announcing that the team will be going on an all-expenses paid trip to Ibiza to celebrate their win – before adding (again, in Spanish) that "there, we’ll celebrate my wedding with Jenni".
This act sparked a wave of comments from viewers, who have branded the act "creepy" and "concerning":
The concerning fact here is the nonchalant manner Rubiales behaves towards Hermoso.
The FA president does this on the biggest stage of the sport with royalty and officials near him, surrounded by cameras.
Very disturbing, and frankly, concerning. pic.twitter.com/Hh89dfWX4S
— SHE scores bangers (@SHEscoresbanger) August 20, 2023
We had no idea who the dude was that was lifting and kissing all the Spanish players on the podium, after a while the fans in our section, mostly from the US started booing him (Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales). Would do this with the men’s team? It was creepy af #WWC2023final
— Denise Duffy (@denise_duffy) August 21, 2023
While this is not the first time there has been a kiss on the football pitch – teammates such as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, Claudio Caniggia and Diego Maradona and Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud have all celebrated goals and match wins with a brief kiss in the past – social media users' concern focused on the gender and power imbalance between the two. Some also pointed out what they considered to be "unsettling" behaviour towards the rest of the team after the World Cup final, with Rubiales physically embracing all the team members and kissing footballer Olga Carmona – who scored the team's winning goal during the match – on the cheek after the team won.
Luis Rubiales kissing Jenni Hermoso was not an isolated incident after full-time. As the Spanish players celebrated on the pitch, Rubiales was pictured kissing match-winner Olga Carmona. Attempts to normalise this behaviour from the head of the FA is deeply unsettling. pic.twitter.com/AgvaoKC4vM
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) August 20, 2023
Several hours after the event (and her comments during the livestream), Hermoso released an official statement to the Spanish press, stating that, "it was a completely spontaneous mutual gesture due to the immense joy of winning a World Cup."
"The president and I have a great relationship; his behaviour towards all of us has been exemplary, and it was a natural expression of affection and gratitude."
Hermoso's statement to the press stressed that she wanted the focus to remain on the team's win, posting a series of images across her social media that seemingly supported this sentiment: "There’s no need to overanalyse a gesture of friendship and gratitude; we’ve won a World Cup, and we won’t stray from what’s important."
El sueño perfecto… que se hizo realidad. ✨ pic.twitter.com/ZvbEZERD6Q
— Jenn1 Hermos0 (@Jennihermoso) August 20, 2023
However, only a few weeks on from the Spanish victory and Rubiales' actions, reports have confirmed that Hermoso has now filed a legal complaint over the kiss. It comes as she revealed that she did not want to be kissed by Rubiales, and felt "vulnerable and a victim of aggression."
The complaint - which was allegedly filed on Tuesday when Hermoso gave her testimony - means that Rubiales, who has been suspended by FIFA for his behaviour but refused to resign, could face criminal charges.
Cosmopolitan UK has reached out to the Spanish Football Association for comment.
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