Luis Rubiales, the former head of the Spanish soccer federation, eventually gave in to the building pressure and resigned from his position in a stunning turn of events that captured the attention of the sports world and the general public.
Three weeks prior, he made a surprising decision that doubted Spain’s historic Women’s World Cup victory when he kissed a player without her permission.
A Controversial Kiss and the Fall of Spanish Soccer’s Figurehead
The incident happened on August 20 in Sydney, Australia, at a widely watched awards presentation that followed Spain’s victory against England.
The victim of Rubiales’ inappropriate approach was Jenni Hermoso, a member of the Spanish national squad. The row swiftly spread outside of the sporting community, garnering international attention.
In a tweet published on X, now known as Twitter, Rubiales declared, “It is clear that I cannot return to the post after my swift suspension by FIFA and the rest of the cases building against me.”
Because of his behavior at the championship, FIFA had already placed Rubiales on temporary suspension and opened a disciplinary process against him.
Despite rising criticism, Rubiales maintained his defiance and hostility toward anyone who criticized him.
However, after Hermoso’s formal claim of sexual assault, the situation worsened when Spanish state prosecutors charged him with coercion and sexual assault on Friday.
Once the most critical person in Spanish soccer, Rubiales found himself at the center of a scandal that was roundly denounced as a sexist act and a misuse of power.
When he said, “The former president of the Spanish soccer federation has done what he had to,” Spain’s Secretary of State for Sport, Victor Francos, echoed the feeling of many. He did as basically the entire Spanish society had requested.
In addition, Rubiales decided to resign from his post as UEFA vice president out of concern that the controversy may damage Spain’s joint candidacy with Portugal, Morocco, and perhaps Ukraine to host the 2030 men’s World Cup.
Luis Rubiales explained his choice more in an interview with British talk show host Piers Morgan. He said, “My father, my daughters, I spoke with them… and some very close friends, and they say to me, “Luis, now you have to focus on your dignity and to continue your life, because if not, probably you are going to damage people you love, and the sport you love.”
Following the initial backlash for his actions at the final, which included a sexual gesture with Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofa nearby in the grandstand, Rubiales had faced calls for his resignation two weeks previously.
However, he had resisted calling it quits and had asserted that he had been the target of a witch hunt by false feminists.
The Spanish government filed a motion to deem him unfit for duty after FIFA temporarily suspended him.
Politicians, soccer leagues, clubs, players, and supporters in Spain all strongly condemned Rubiales’ conduct during one of soccer’s most important international competitions.
Many believe this incident, which coincided with a strike by players in Spain’s women’s league demanding higher wages, may spark a “Me Too” movement in Spanish soccer.
His mother, who briefly went on a hunger strike, was his only remaining public backer; the men’s and women’s coaches of Spain’s national teams had deserted him.
His resignation was also openly demanded by the Spanish federation.
Rubiales finally gave in and resigned, citing that “Insisting in waiting and hanging on would not contribute anything positive (for) either the federation or Spanish soccer” in his resignation letter.
Rubiales acknowledged that Spanish state prosecutors may have opened the door to criminal charges and possible prison time if found guilty.
The consequences of Rubiales’ actions also had an impact on Spain’s women’s national team, as players only represented their nation once the federation’s leadership was changed.
While a positive step, the women’s team coach’s dismissal was insufficient to bring them back.
Luis Rubiales Resigns Amid Gender Equality Debate
The resignation of Luis Rubiales comes at a critical time in the ongoing discussion about gender equality and respect in the world of sports as Spain’s women’s national team prepares for the Women’s Nations League, which will begin on September 22 with a match against top-ranked Sweden.
After a fruitful period in Europe, where she assisted Barcelona in winning the 2021 Women’s Champions League and received recognition in the Ballon d’Or voting, Jenni Hermoso, the player at the center of this dispute, continues her career with Mexican club Pachuca.
This issue has undoubtedly come to light because of her bravery in speaking out against Rubiales.
Luis Rubiales has closed a chapter in his career that has been marked by controversy and scandal with his retirement as a vice president at UEFA, a position he held since 2019.
UEFA had not punished him despite FIFA’s disciplinary proceedings, leaving many to wonder what impact his actions will have on the soccer world.