FIFA suspends Spain FA boss for unsolicited kiss

FIFA has provisionally suspended Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), from all football-related activities for 90 days following his unsolicited kiss of Jenni Hermoso after the Women’s World Cup final.

Despite growing pressure throughout the week, including FIFA opening disciplinary proceedings Thursday, Rubiales refused to resign Friday, saying the kiss was “mutual and with consent.”

– Charting Spain FA president’s five controversial years in charge

Pachuca forward Hermoso replied in a statement later in the day, disputing Rubiales’ version of events and saying she “felt vulnerable and the victim of aggression, an impulsive, sexist act which was out of place and with no consent on my behalf.”

FIFA, world football’s governing body, said Saturday: “The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Jorge Ivan Palacio (Colombia), in use of the powers granted by article 51 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC), has decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level.

“This suspension, which will be effective as of today, is for an initial period of 90 days, pending the disciplinary proceedings opened against Mr. Luis Rubiales on Thursday, Aug. 24.

“Likewise, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and in order to preserve, among other factors, the fundamental rights of the national team player Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and the good order of the disciplinary proceedings before this disciplinary body, has issued two additional directives (article 7 FDC) by which he orders Mr. Luis Rubiales to refrain, through himself or third parties, from contacting or attempting to contact the professional player of the Spanish national football team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso or her close environment.

“Likewise, the RFEF and its officials or employees, directly or through third parties, are ordered to refrain from contacting the professional player of the Spanish national team Ms. Jennifer Hermoso and her close environment.”

UEFA, which oversees football in Europe, has yet to respond to ESPN’s requests for a comment on the situation. Rubiales sits on UEFA’s executive committee and is one of the body’s vice presidents.

In a statement through the federation, Rubiales said: “Luis Rubiales has stated that he will legally defend himself in the competent bodies, he fully trusts FIFA and reiterates that, in this way, he is given the opportunity to begin his defence so that the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven.”

Later on Saturday, the RFEF released another statement in reply to Hermoso’s, accusing her of changing her original version of events.

“The facts are what they are and, no matter how many statement you put out to distort reality, it is impossible to change what happened,” the statement read.

“The peck was with consent. Consent is given at the moment with the conditions of the moment. Afterwards you can think that you have made a mistake, but you cannot change the reality.”

It follows a week of controversy, criticism and widespread condemnation of Rubiales’ behaviour after Spain’s World Cup win over England in Sydney.

As well as kissing Hermoso, Rubiales was also seen effusively hugging other members of the Spanish national team and kissing them on the cheek.

Before that, immediately following Spain’s confirmation as World Cup champions, Rubiales was seen grabbing his crotch in a victory gesture, with 16-year-old Infanta Sofia and Queen Letizia of Spain standing nearby.

Everything accelerated on Friday when Rubiales announced he would not resign in a remarkable 30-minute speech, which was applauded by those present at the RFEF’s headquarters.

Following his intervention, Spain’s government started legal proceedings seeking to “suspend him from his functions.”

Later, all 23 players who won the World Cup with Spain, in addition to more than 50 other players, denounced Rubiales’ “bewildering speech” and said they “will not return to the national team if the current leaders continue.”

In a separate statement, Hermoso then called Rubiales’ version of events “false,” said his behaviour constituted an “aggressive, sexist act” and added that the RFEF had put pressure on her and others to make public comments to calm things down.

Following that, six members of coach Jorge Vilda’s staff stepped down on Saturday with a further five coaches who work with the country’s youth teams also announcing their resignations.

Vilda said later on Saturday that he regretted the “inappropriate behaviour” of Rubiales.

The fallout has dominated headlines in Spain and was the focus of Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez’s news conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Villarreal.

“Before taking questions, I just want to comment on the situation,” Xavi said. “Firstly, I want to offer my unconditional support for Jenni and players in the women’s game.

“Secondly, I want to condemn the behaviour of the RFEF president, which was totally unacceptable. And, thirdly, I want to express sadness that it has taken away from a historic World Cup win.”

However, Xavi grew irritated as he was asked multiple times about the matter, with the press officer eventually requesting that journalists focus on other questions.

“That’s seven questions now,” Xavi said. “It’s a shame we’re not talking about Cata Coll, Aitana Bonmat√≠, Alexia Putellas and the hurdles they have overcome.

“We are talking about unacceptable conduct [instead]. I like how the team bounced back after losing to Japan, how they suffered in the semifinal to make the final. We have to put value on the players.”

Rubiales has been a controversial figure throughout his tenure as head of Spanish football’s governing body.

The RFEF also faced criticism over its handling of the complaints of 15 Spain women’s national team players over Vilda and the federation’s support for the team.

Rubiales’ response was to back Vilda. Three of the 15 featured at the World Cup after some changes were made, while seven refused to participate and five were not selected.

Information from Reuters was included in this report.

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