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England women's football coach Sarina Wiegman praises Jenni Hermoso amid kissing dispute with Spain chief Rubiales
31 August 2023, 22:59 | Updated: 1 September 2023, 00:58
Sarina Wiegman, the coach of the England women's football team, has used an awards speech to back Spain's Jenni Hermoso amid an ongoing dispute about a kiss with the head of the country's football association, Luis Rubiales.
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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 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.
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".