David Lammy 10am - 1pm
Spain football chief Luis Rubiales claims kiss with Jenni Hermoso was 'mutual and consented' despite striker's complaint
1 September 2023, 20:43 | Updated: 1 September 2023, 20:50
The embattled head of the Spanish football federation has claimed kissing Jenni Hermoso was a "mutual and consented act", despite her protests otherwise.
Listen to this article
Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA and faces huge pressure to quit after he kissed striker Hermoso on the lips following Spain's victory over England in the Women's World Cup.
Hermoso said immediately after the kiss that she "did not like it". Rubiales has always maintained he had consent, and has sent a video to FIFA of Hermoso and other squad members apparently laughing about the kiss afterwards.
Hermoso and 22 teammates have said they will not play again for the national team until Rubiales quits.
Rubiales said in an extraordinary and lengthy statement on Friday evening: "Last August 20, I made some obvious mistakes, which I sincerely regret from the bottom of my heart. It is true that for such errors I have asked for forgiveness because it was fair; and now I do it again with humility.
"I do it convinced and with the purpose of improving. I have learned that no matter how great the joy and deep the emotion, even when WINNING A WORLD CUP, sports leaders should be required to exhibit exemplary behaviour, and mine was not.
"Therefore I reiterate, once again, my apologies for this to the footballers, federation and others. football sectors in a clear, emphatic and unmitigated manner. Also to fans of football and to all those who may have been offended by my actions. I also gave the corresponding explanations, telling the truth of what happened. It is my only version, the one that I have maintained from the first moment and I continue to defend it and I am not going to modify it.
"The spontaneity and happiness of the historic moment led us to carry out a mutual and consented act, the product of great enthusiasm. At no time was there any aggression, indeed, there was not even the slightest discomfort, but an overflowing joy in both.
"I repeat: with the consent of both parties, both in the affectionate hugs, as well as in the peak and subsequent farewell full of affectionate mutual gestures, that occurred on the Medals delivery stage."
Rubiales said he would continue collaborating with the authorities to prove his innocence.
He claimed to have "suffered an unprecedented political and media lynching", not "only nationally but globally".
Rubiales claimed to have "felt the growing support of people on the street and on social media."
He said: "I feel that something has changed and in the face of such spurious injustice and public judgment, the average citizen foot, women and men alike, have come together. I want to thank you here and now. It's the moment to thank you infinitely for your immense support, for believing me, for not getting carried away by this manufactured campaign against me. Popular support reinforces me in the idea that this matter is has been magnified and taken out of context for other reasons.
"I continue to trust in the independence of the bodies where this issue must be resolved, despite the fact that the political pressure and pressure from certain media is as self-serving as it is brutal and that the information on this matter is being subjected to a multitude of manipulations, lies and censorship, but the truth only has one path and that is why I repeat, I trust that justice will be done."
Rubiales vowed "to prove the truth".
He went on: "I want to send a message to all the good people in our country and beyond our borders, including those women who have really been attacked and who have my full support and understanding: this is not about gender, it is about truth.
"In the name of Feminism, you should not try to sink a man -or a woman- without a fair trial. Equality goes from identical rights for all. Justice is applied to people without the gender having to previously mark the result."
He said that he feel that he had been "judged unfairly by the media and politicians, adding that "this should never happen to anyone again."
It comes after Sarina Wiegman, the coach of the England women's football team, used an awards speech on Thursday to back Spain's Jenni Hermoso amid an ongoing dispute about a kiss with the head of the country's football association, Luis Rubiales.
Wiegman won UEFA women's coach of the year award on Thursday, beating out Spanish manager Jorge Vilda, despite losing to his side in the final.
She said at the awards ceremony: "We all know the issues around the Spanish team and it really hurts me as a coach, as mother of two daughters, as a wife and as a human being.
"The game has grown so much, but there's also still a long way to go in women's football and in society.
"I would like to dedicate this award to the Spanish team. This team deserves to be celebrated and deserves to be listened to, and I'm going to give them again a big applause and I hope you will join (me)."
Another of Spain's World Cup winners, Barcelona star Aitana Bonmati, was named UEFA Women's Player of the Year. Manchester City's Erling Haaland won Men's Player of the Year.
Bonmati used her acceptance speech to show solidarity with Hermoso, saying: "As a society we should not allow abuse of power in an employment relationship or disrespect. To all the women who suffer the same as Jennifer, we are with you."
Bonmati added: "Spanish football is going through bad moments right now.
"We won the World Cup, but we're not talking a lot about that because of some things I would rather not ignore."
Rubiales, 46, who has vowed to stay on, has been provisionally suspended by FIFA for an initial period of 90 days, pending an investigation into his behaviour.
Spanish prosecutors have launched a sexual assault investigation.
A spokesperson for the Spanish National Court said: "Prosecutors from the national court have opened a preliminary investigation to look into the facts, which could constitute an offence of sexual assault."
Meanwhile Rubiales' mother was hospitalised following a days-long "hunger strike" in protest against the claims made about her son.
Angeles Bejar had been staging the hunger strike at a church in Motril, in southern Spain, where the parish priest confirmed she had been hospitalised "as a matter of urgency".
Ms Bejar earlier labelled the controversy surrounding her son's kiss with Hermoso a "hunt...that he does not deserve".
She has urged Hermoso to "tell the truth" and "maintain the version she had at the beginning of the events".