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Spanish soccer boss digs in, claiming ‘false feminist’ witch hunt

The embattled chief of Spanish soccer has hit back at what he calls “false feminists” demanding he be axed for embracing and kissing a member of Women’s World Cup championship team.

Spain’s women’s world champions say they won’t play for their country unless controversial soccer federation chief Luis Rubiales is removed.

Controversial soccer federation chief Luis Rubiales told an emergency general assembly of the federation “I won’t resign” four times in quick succession, claiming he was a victim of a witch hunt.

Rubiales kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the award ceremony after Spain beat England in the final in Sydney.

Several Spanish media outlets erroneously reported on Thursday that Rubiales was planning to step down.

Instead, he told the overwhelmingly male assembly the kiss was “mutual and with the consent” of Hermoso.

Hermoso had said in a video streamed on social media last Sunday, “I didn’t like it, but what can I do”.

Disciplinary case begins

Rubiales, 46, has come under increasing pressure to leave his post since the incident.

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body and organiser of the World Cup, opened a disciplinary case against him on Thursday.

Its disciplinary committee was tasked with weighing whether Rubiales violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute”.

FIFA’s move came after Spain’s acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez said Rubiales’ attempt to apologise, which came after he initially insulted his critics, was unconvincing.

Shortly before the forced kiss Rubiales had grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture while standing close to Spain’s Queen Letizia and the 16-year-old Princess Sofia.

The combination of the gesture and the unsolicited kiss has made Rubiales a national embarrassment after his conduct was broadcast to a global audience, marring the team’s achievement in winning the trophy.

The first attempt to respond to the scandal was a statement Spain’s national federation released in the name of Hermoso in which she was quoted downplaying the incident.

On Wednesday, Hermoso issued a statement through her players’ union saying it would speak on her behalf.

The union said it would do all it could to ensure the kiss does “not go unpunished”.

He goes or they won’t play

Dozens of members of the Spanish women’s national soccer team say they won’t play for the country until Luis Rubiales is removed as the national federation chief.

Jenni Hermoso said on Friday that ‘in no moment’ did she consent to the kiss by Spanish federation president Rubiales as anger increased among players and government ministers who decried his actions as unacceptable misogynist behaviour.

A total of 56 players, including Hermoso and all of the World Cup-winning 23-strong side, signed a joint statement sent via their FUTPRO union demanding the removal of the federation leadership.

Criticism has steadily mounted. Spain’s acting prime minister, players unions, players for Spain’s women’s team, and some players on men’s teams have said he must go.

Several Spanish news media outlets had reported Rubiales would step down.

While Rubiales held his ground, federation vice president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women’s soccer, announced that he was resigning, followed by at least two other federation members. Del Amo had urged Rubiales to also resign.

Among those supporting Rubiales were women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda and men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente.

In his speech to the assembly on Friday, Rubiales said Hermoso “lifted me up” in a celebratory gesture and he asked her for “a little kiss?” and she “said yes.”

“The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters,” Rubiales said.

‘I did not consent’

Hermoso contradicted Rubiales’ version in a statement issued later through her FUTRPO players’ union.

She said “in no moment did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no moment did I try to pick up the president.

“I won’t tolerate anyone putting in doubt my word and even more so that anyone invents words that I did not say.”

Rubiales said he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence.

One of them was acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take “urgent measures.”

“Impunity for macho actions is over,” Díaz said. “Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

— AAP

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