Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales apologized Monday afternoon amid public and political outcry after he gave Spain’s midfielder and Women’s World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso an unwelcome kiss on the lips after she received her medal onstage after her team’s victory Sunday.
While Rubiales said in a statement he thought the furor was “idiotic,” the Royal Spanish Football Federation president appeared in a video posted to social media on Monday. “I have no choice but to apologize and to learn from this … and when representing the federation take more care,” Rubiales said.
“Certainly I made a mistake and I have to acknowledge that. It was done without any ill intention in a moment of the highest exuberance. Here we saw it as natural and normal but outside it has caused a commotion,” he said.
During the post-match locker room celebrations after Spain won the World Cup against England, Hermoso said on an Instagram Live video. “But what can I do? I didn’t like it, eh,” about the kiss.
Rubiales was criticized widely by Spanish politicians and Equality Minister Irene Montero said it was a display of “sexual violence.” Spain’s minister of culture and sport, Miquel Iceta, said the kiss was “unacceptable” Monday on Spanish television.
“We all deserve respect,” Iceta said.
Rubiales — who kissed and vigorously hugged multiple Spanish players during the medal ceremony — also ended up under the microscope for what appeared to be a crotch-grabbing celebration in the stands during the game. During boisterous post-match celebrations Rubiales — after promising the champion team a holiday to Ibiza — also said that he would marry Hermoso there.
The storm comes against the backdrop of a long-running feud between the Spanish football establishment and its women players, 15 of whom wrote letters last September telling the association they were quitting the national team over the federation’s approach to running it and amid a dispute with the coach Jorge Vilda.
While a handful, including Barcelona star player Aitana Bonmatí, eventually returned to the squad this year, some continued to strike and missed what turned out to be a triumphant World Cup campaign — though one which is unlikely to heal divisions inside Spanish women’s football.
During the most-watched Women’s World Cup ever, Spain beat England 1-0 on Sunday in the final in Sydney thanks to a goal from Real Madrid’s Olga Carmona, who later found out that her father had died before the match took place.
This story has been updated.