FIFA World Cup

It started with a kiss: Implications of Spain soccer chief’s controversial act

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It started with a kiss: Implications of Spain soccer chief’s controversial act

CONTROVERSIAL. Spain's Jennifer Hermoso celebrates with President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales after the title match.


Arguably the biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup of all time is now marred by a single act that lasted just one second, but will be remembered forever in infamy

Picture this: your national team has just won the biggest trophy in world football, the celebrations are at fever pitch, and the entire country is overflowing with positive emotions. What could possibly ruin such a moment?

Luis Rubiales quickly found out the answer to that question.

In mere weeks following the conclusion of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 25th president of the Spanish Royal Football Federation (RFEF) had gone from one of the catalysts of an astounding achievement for the program to being immortalized as one of its biggest antagonists.

Following the end of the World Cup final, Rubiales gave Silver Ball recipient Jenni Hermoso a non-consensual kiss during Spain’s trophy presentation. 

The fallout of that controversial act landed Rubiales in hot water, eventually got him suspended from his position, and ultimately resulted in his resignation.

Even with Rubiales out of a job, the situation is still far from resolved with Hermoso officially filing a criminal case against the former chief. But, moving forward, what needs to change for Spanish football, and the beautiful game in general?

A push for leadership reform

The impact of Rubiales’ kiss has already made a significant effect on the Spanish football federation as national team manager Jorge Vilda was relieved of his duties a mere two weeks after winning the World Cup. 

Though no official statement was given regarding his termination, it could likely be due to his turbulent history with La Roja.

Vilda had been called out by a number of players over the past year for his questionable methods and how he treats members of the team, which resulted in a 15-woman boycott of the Spanish squad.

Members of the World Cup-winning team went public about their intentions to decline playing for their country unless the current leadership undergoes changes. Two polarizing figures in Rubiales and Vilda may now be out of the picture, but the changes shouldn’t end there. 

Appointing just any other president or coach is like putting a band-aid on an open wound; it might stick at first, but sooner or later it loses its effect. The players’ well-being and demands must be taken into consideration by giving them leadership they can trust not only to win football games, but foster a healthier culture within the federation.

Further advocacy for women’s sports

An unnecessary, non-consensual kiss at the end of a global sporting event would not happen at a men’s sporting division simply due to the fact that there is no power imbalance or history of prejudice against them.

For the longest time, women’s sports have always fought an uphill battle when it comes to practically anything concerning a governing body, and this case further proves that there is still a long way to go. 

It is not enough that there is support from both fans and people in authority alike, rather the support must not come at the cost of harm to any athlete regardless of any possible personal characteristic.

Arguably the biggest Women’s World Cup of all time is now marred by a single act that lasted just one second, but will be remembered forever in infamy.

Policies for player protection

The entire situation is not only the result of one man’s poor judgment, but also the lack of immediate support for Hermoso and other players who may have been affected by what happened.

Even days after the incident, the RFEF continuously backed then-president Rubiales in attempts to clear the situation before it escalated further. Hermoso even went on record stating that the Spanish Football Federation put under “continuous pressure to justify Mr Rubiales’ actions,” with international governing body FIFA needing to intervene and suspend Rubiales themselves.

As FIFA continues its investigation into the Rubiales controversy, there needs to be a push for greater player protection especially in the women’s side of sports. The entire situation clearly shows that, without the intervention of FIFA, the RFEF would likely have stood by their president despite the public outrage.

In simple terms, football would not exist without its players, therefore their safety and well-being need to be prioritized above all else. – Joaqin Valencerina/Rappler

 Joaqin Valencerina is a Rappler intern.

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