Luis Rubiales, President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), is facing widespread public criticism after he was caught on camera grabbing midfielder Jenni Hermoso's face and planting a kiss right on her mouth during the on-field medal ceremony following Spain's 2023 Women's World Cup win.
The incident occurred during FIFA's awards ceremony, where Rubiales was joined by dignitaries such as FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Spain's Queen Letizia, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
A video shows Rubiales embracing Hermoso, placing his hands on her head before kissing her. The video clip also captures Hermoso's response, where she expressed her discomfort with the situation.
You can see the moment in the video below.
In a video statement, Rubiales addressed the incident, expressing his "regret" for what transpired, claiming that the interaction was spontaneous and without any negative intent.
There’s an event, which I have to regret, which is everything that happened between the player and I, with a magnificent relationship between the two of us, the same as with the others."
“And well, I surely made a mistake, I have to recognize that. In a moment of elation, without any intention of bad faith, well, what happened happened – I think in a very spontaneous way. I repeat, there was no bad faith between either of the two of us."
“Here, we didn’t understand it because we saw something natural, normal and in no way, I repeat, with bad faith. But outside of the bubble, it looks like it has turned into a storm and so, if there are people who have felt offended, I have to say I’m sorry.”
You can see his response in the video below.
But Hermoso was not the only Spanish player who received a kiss from Rubiales during the post-match celebrations. Rubiales was seen embracing and kissing other players as well.
He later appeared in a locker room with his arm around Hermoso and a video captured the moment he told the women's soccer team that he would marry her.
You can see the video below.
Initially, he'd bristled at the reactions to the kiss, saying in a Spanish radio interview that there are "idiots everywhere" and that when "two people have a minor show of affection, we can't heed idiocy."
He's been harshly criticized as a result.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the situation but released a statement it said was from Hermoso that referred to the kiss as "a totally spontaneous and mutual gesture due to the immense joy that winning the World Cup gave us."
The statement continued:
"The president and I have a great relationship, his behavior with everyone has been excellent, and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude. We have won a World Cup and we are not going to lose sight of what is important."
The controversy has escalated beyond the incident itself, with Spanish political party SUMAR calling for Rubiales' resignation and Spain's Minister of Culture and Sport, Miquel Iceta, labeling the kiss as "unacceptable."
Spanish journalists have also called out the kiss as an example of the ominipresent machismo in Spanish society, noting that the federation's policy on sexual violence stipulates that "forced kisses" are considered "unacceptable conduct with immediate consequences."
Nadia Tronchoni, the editor of El País, called it a "pity" that "such a beautiful day ends up tarnished by this seedy machirulismo," adding that "a kiss on the mouth, by surprise, is an aggression" and "unjustifiable," particularly "if the kiss comes from a superior."