An inappropriate kiss on a football pitch has sparked criticism and anger in Spain over sexist behavior towards women. The affair hasn’t stopped since the moment the Spanish soccer boss offered too intimate and unsolicited praise to the national team players after winning the World Cup final. Is Spain on the verge of a social revolution?
What you will also hear in today’s episode at 5:59
- How an unwanted kiss has become a topic that resonates in Spanish sport, society and politics.
- That the case in a country dedicated to football has partly overshadowed the extraordinary sporting success of the local women’s national team.
- Why this is a crucial moment in the movement of Spanish society towards greater equality between men and women.
No one will take away the historic first title of world champions from the players of the Spanish national team. However, the euphoria after the 1-0 final win over their English rivals before last Sunday was soon eroded by the case of Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales.
“In Spain, everyone is talking about it now. Even all the political parties, from the far left to the far right, agree that Rubiales should resign,” describes the mood in Spain. journalist María Ramirez, who is the editor of the news server elDiario.es. In an interview for the 5:59 podcast, he adds that such a broad consensus is not entirely usual regarding similar cases in Spain.
But Luis Rubiales is no longer at the helm of Spanish football. This weekend, he was suspended by the international football federation FIFA, which at the same time opened its investigation. And she is not the only one: the Spanish prosecutor’s office has also opened an investigation for suspicion of sexual harassment.
Reason? The behavior of Rubiales after the winning final, filmed by television cameras. During the ceremony, he hugged the Spanish representative in every way possible, then kissed player Jenni Hermosová directly on the mouth.
In addition to the kiss, also grabbing the crotch
Over the next few days, Rubiales explained what he believed had happened at the stadium in Sydney, Australia. The kiss would have been reciprocal and consensual. But Hermosová opposed such an interpretation. “She made it clear that the kiss was unsolicited, non-consensual, that she wasn’t comfortable with it and that she felt like a victim of assault,” Ramírez describes.
Spanish Federation President Luis Rubiales seen kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony.
The player then commented, saying she didn’t like it. pic.twitter.com/YO3QTzE8zd
— Document Women (@DocumentWomen) August 21, 2023
Besides, the cameras also caught other strange behaviors from the football boss. In the VIP area, he grabbed his crotch as Spain’s Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter stood nearby.
From the last evening, demands began to appear for the end of Rubiales’ term. The pressure escalated considerably after it was revealed that the union issued a statement on behalf of footballer Hermos that the kiss went well. But the player did not utter such words. “It was one of the key moments that really sparked the anger in Spain: they are still trying to cover up the matter by insinuating something that the players in question never said,” Ramírez explained.
The “explosion of solidarity” in Spain
The case of inappropriate behavior – or perhaps also sexual harassment – on the part of the boss of the union resonates now, but it is not the first time that players have filed complaints. Last year, for example, they demanded the replacement of current coach Jorge Vilda, who allegedly harassed, humiliated or manipulated them. Similar accusations have also been leveled against her predecessor Ignacio Quereda, who coached the women’s national team for 27 long years.
But only the current case has elicited a massive reaction. There has been an “explosion of solidarity” between people and Spain seems to be going through a crucial moment, says Ramírez. “People have started to share their own stories when they have faced bullying, mistreatment or bullying in sport – but perhaps also in sports journalism or other areas – that affect public life and public institutions,” he said.
The strong public reaction was apparently also influenced by who was the target of inappropriate behavior this time around. “Never in Spain have such outstanding women spoken publicly of ill-treatment,” notes the journalist. Plus, he was a recent world champion. Ramírez notes that with a win behind the back, you have noticeably more power – and when you talk, people pay more attention to it.
Also, the Spaniards reportedly noticed that the football federation was trying to cover up the matter. And they were also aware of the treatment the team had faced in the past. “And all of this cuts into the context of contemporary Spain, which is going through a huge change. (…) It is one of the moments that will probably be remembered as a milestone, where people stopped, reflected – and perhaps have changed something in their behavior”, adds María Ramírez, journalist at elDiario.es.
In the 5:59 podcast you will also learn more about Luis Rubiales’ past or if Spain is truly united in his case. Listen in the player at the beginning of the article.
Editor and co-editor: Pavel Vondra, Matej Valek
Sound design: David Kaiser
Sources of audio samples: ČT24, TV Nova, CNN Prima NEWS, ČT sport, Nova Sport 1, Český rozhlas Radiožurnál, YouTube – RTVE Noticias, YT – BBC News, YT – Guardian Football
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