FIFA World Cup

Spanish kiss furor: Government meets players as soccer chief’s mother starts hunger strike


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Spanish kiss furor: Government meets players as soccer chief’s mother starts hunger strike

SUPPORT. Atletico Madrid players and staff hold a banner in support of Spain's Jennifer Hermoso before the match as FIFA suspend President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales after the Women's World Cup Final.

@Focus.films.on/Handout via Reuters

The Royal Spanish Football Federation has said Luis Rubiales will defend himself legally to prove 'his complete innocence'

MADRID, Spain – The mother of Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales started a hunger strike inside a church on Monday, August 28, to protest against what she called her son’s “inhumane treatment” over his grabbing and kissing player Jenni Hermoso, his cousin said.

Rubiales, who is president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), was suspended on Saturday, August 26, by FIFA amid a furor after he kissed Hermoso on the mouth during the awards ceremony following Spain’s World Cup victory in Sydney on August 20. Hermoso says she did not want to be kissed.

He has refused to resign even as the matter has spiraled into a national row over macho behavior, women’s rights and sexual abuse.

The RFEF, which has defended Rubiales, has called an urgent meeting on Monday to evaluate the situation.

Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz was also meeting on Monday with representatives of the women players’ union FUTPRO, which represents Hermoso, and the Association of Spanish Footballers.

“What footballer Jenni Hermoso has experienced should never have happened,” Diaz said in a video statement prior to the meeting.

Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz, told reporters that the family was suffering and facing harassment over what she described as “unfair” premature judgements.

“We want to be left alone and justice to prevail…Jenni, we want you to tell the truth.” Ruiz said.

She said his mother Angeles Bejar had gone on hunger strike and did not wish to leave the parish church of Divina Pastora in Rubiales’ hometown in Motril, southern Spain.

Bejar told state news agency EFE her strike would last “until a solution is found to the inhumane and bloody hunt they are carrying out against my son with something he does not deserve.”

“There is no sexual abuse since there is consent on both sides, as the images prove,” Bejar told EFE. “My son is incapable of hurting anyone.”

Rubiales, 46, has been defiant over the kiss – which has been condemned as unwanted by Hermoso, her team mates, several male players, and the Spanish government.

At a federation meeting on Friday, August 25, where he had been widely expected to step down, Rubiales instead refused to quit, seeking to defend his behavior and calling the kiss “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual.”

RFEF has said Rubiales will defend himself legally to prove “his complete innocence.”

Hermoso said she did not consent to the kiss and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression.”

Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting against sexual abuse and violence, and the Socialist-led coalition government has presided over legal reforms including around equal pay or abortion rights.

Feminist groups have called a demonstration on Monday in Madrid entitled “With You Jenni.” Hundreds of people staged a demonstration on Sunday, August 27, in Salamanca against Rubiales.

The Spanish government cannot fire Rubiales but has strongly denounced his actions and said on Friday it was seeking to get him suspended using a legal procedure before a sports tribunal.

All 23 of Spain’s cup-winning squad including Hermoso, as well as dozens of other squad members, said on Friday they would not play internationals while Rubiales remained head of the federation. Their next match is away to Sweden in the Nations League on September 22. –

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