Spain players boycott as Rubiales refuses to quit

All 23 players of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad have said they will not play for their country again as long as Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales remains in charge.

Forward Jenni Hermoso released a joint statement via her union FUTPRO on Friday in which she denied Rubiales’ claim that she consented to his kiss during Spain’s World Cup final celebrations.

The statement, co-signed by Spain’s entire World Cup squad and 58 former players, added that they would not return to play for the national team while Rubiales remains in his position.

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

Earlier Friday, Rubiales said calls for him to step down were a campaign of “social assassination” by “false feminists” during a speech to the RFEF’s general assembly in which he refused to resign.

“I want to clarify, as you can see in the images, that at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me,” Hermoso said. “I won’t tolerate that my word is called into question, and even less so that words are invented which I didn’t say.”

Hermoso and her teammates called for “real change to help the national team to keep growing, to be able to bring this great success to the generations to come” and said they would not play for Spain while “the current management” remains at the RFEF.

The president of Spain’s Sports Council (CSD) and its secretary of state for sport, Victor Francos, has confirmed that the CSD is seeking to remove Rubiales by bringing a complaint to the country’s Administrative Sports Court (TAD).

“This assembly, far from resolving the situation, increased the controversy,” Francos said. “The explanations given [by Rubiales] aren’t sufficient. The CSD today begins the procedure to suspend Luis Rubiales immediately from the RFEF presidency. … As the person responsible for Spanish sport I have to apologise to the players. They didn’t deserve this this week.

“Neither the CSD nor its president can remove [Rubiales]. I can’t sack anybody. But we can take the case to TAD if we believe a serious offence has been committed, and TAD can approve it or not.”

In a separate statement posted later on social media, Hermoso again refuted Rubiales’ claims.

“I didn’t want to interfere in the multiple ongoing legal processes, but I feel obliged to state that the words of Luis Rubiales explaining the unfortunate incident are categorically false and part of the manipulative culture he himself has created,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“I clarify that at no time did the conversation occur which Luis Rubiales referred to, and his kiss was not consensual. In the same way, I want to repeat, as I did at the time, that the incident was not to my liking.

“The situation was a shock for me, in the context of the celebration, and with the passing of time and analysing in more detail those initial feelings, I feel the need to denounce this act as I believe no person in their work, sporting or social environment should be the victim of this kind of nonconsensual behaviour. I felt vulnerable and the victim of aggression, an impulsive, sexist act which was out of place and with no consent on my behalf.”

She went on to accuse the RFEF of pressuring her and her loved ones to help justify Rubiales’ actions.

“I was asked to make a joint statement to reduce the pressure on the president, but at that time my mind was only on enjoying the historic achievement together with my teammates. That’s why I told the RFEF, as well as the media and people close to me, that I didn’t want to make any kind of individual or collective statement on this matter.

“Despite my decision, I must say that I have felt under continuous pressure to come out with a statement which could justify Luis Rubiales’ actions. Not only that, but in different ways and via different people the RFEF has put pressure on my family, friends and teammates to provide testimony which had little or nothing to do with my feelings.”

Late Friday, the RFEF refuted parts of Hermoso’s statement and said the federation and Rubiales will seek “as many legal actions as may correspond in defense of the honorability of the president.”

Rubiales had been widely expected to announce his resignation Friday, but instead he used his platform at the federation’s assembly to attempt to justify his actions and attack his critics.

A series of statements condemning his response followed from Spanish clubs, players, politicians and governing bodies.

Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas described the situation as “unacceptable,” while World Cup MVP Aitana Bonmatí posted on X that “there are limits that can’t be crossed and we can’t tolerate.”

“Everybody saw what happened,” defender Irene Paredes wrote. “You [Hermoso] are the victim. I’m with you, friend.”

Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias said he would not consider playing for the Spain men’s national team until the situation is resolved.

Condemnation also came from players outside Spain.

“I’m disgusted by the public actions of Luis Rubiales,” U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan wrote on X. “I stand by @Jennihermoso and the Spanish players. Winning a World Cup should be one of the best moments in these players’ lives but instead it’s overshadowed by assault, misogyny, and failures by the Spanish federation.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement that “no player should ever be subjected to what Jenni Hermoso endured, and we’re fully supportive of FIFA’s disciplinary proceedings. Player safety should be the highest priority, and we call on everyone in the global soccer community to affirm this fundamental right.”

England’s players, beaten by Spain in the final, decried Rubiales’ “unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organisation.”

“The behaviour of those who think they are invincible must not be tolerated and people shouldn’t take any convincing to take action against any form of harassment,” a statement from the Lionesses added.

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