FIFA suspended Luis Rubiales as president of Spain's football federation on Saturday, Aug. 26 for kissing Women's World Cup player Jenni Hermoso on the lips, while even his close friend Jorge Vilda joined the tidal wave of criticism.
The move by world football's governing body was the latest development in a deepening row pitting Rubiales and the federation (RFEF) against Hermoso and her Spain teammates, which the players say has tarnished the glory of winning the World Cup in Australia.
"(We) decided today to provisionally suspend Mr. Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level," FIFA said, banning him and the RFEF from contacting Hermoso or those close to her.
The suspension of Rubiales will last 90 days while FIFA undertakes disciplinary proceedings against the 46-year-old.
😳 FIFA suspended the president of the Spanish Federation Luis Rubiales for 90 DAYS - all because he kissed a football player without her consent#Rubiales #FIFA #FIFAWomensWorldCup2023 #FIFAWomensWorldCup #FIFAWWC #RubialesOut pic.twitter.com/VPhm2aHNxj— GringoBall (@gringo460287) August 26, 2023
Later Saturday, the majority of the women's team's coaching staff offered their resignations over Rubiales' conduct, although controversial coach Vilda was not among them.
Meanwhile, 81 players including Hermoso are on strike from the national team.
"I deeply regret that Spanish women's football's triumph has been harmed by the improper behavior of our leader Luis Rubiales, which he himself has acknowledged," said controversial coach Vilda in a statement to the domestic EFE news agency.
Vilda, who was seen applauding Rubiales' speech on Friday, Aug. 25 in which he refused to resign despite unprecedented criticism, was told in it by the president he would be offered a new deal with a huge pay hike.
Six of Vilda's first-team staff and five others working in women's football in the RFEF offered to step down because of the "unacceptable attitudes and statements" from Rubiales.
They added that they supported Hermoso's version of events.
Hermoso and 80 other Spain players, including the entire World Cup squad, said they will not play for the national team until the "leadership" changes.
The RFEF responded to FIFA's suspension, saying Rubiales has "full confidence in the FIFA bodies" and will defend himself "so the truth prevails and his complete innocence is proven."
The federation also said Pedro Rocha would take over as interim president during Rubiales' suspension.
Rubiales had been under intense pressure to quit but at an emergency RFEF meeting on Friday, he was defiant, saying he refused to resign and claiming he was the target of a "social assassination."
On Saturday, the federation upped the ante by threatening legal action over Hermoso's "lies" about the kiss.
Hermoso said "at no time" did she consent to the kiss following the 1-0 win in the final against England in Sydney, which Rubiales described as "mutual, euphoric, and consensual."
The RFEF responded, saying it would take "as many legal actions as necessary to defend the honor of the President of the RFEF."
Later Saturday the federation published another statement attacking Hermoso.
"Hermoso lies in all the statements she makes against the president, as we will have the opportunity to prove in due course," it read.
The RFEF said Hermoso had described the kiss as "a mere anecdote without significance" in statements to a FIFA welfare officer soon after it happened. Later, they deleted the statement.
'Victim of assault'
Hermoso hit back strongly against Rubiales' claims the kiss was consensual, saying she felt "vulnerable and the victim of an assault."
"I want to clarify that at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no case did I seek to lift up the president," she said in the statement on Friday released through the women players' Futpro union.
The Spanish government had confirmed earlier Saturday they had also started a process that may allow them to suspend Rubiales from his post next week.
Spain's High Council for Sport (CSD) president Victor Francos said FIFA's suspension was "no obstacle" for the domestic investigation into Rubiales' conduct to continue.
Players from World Cup runners-up England released a statement in support of Hermoso on their social networks, signed "The Lionesses."
"Unacceptable actions allowed to happen by a sexist and patriarchal organization. Abuse is abuse and we have all seen the truth," it read.
Before the tournament, 15 Spain players had taken a similar stance against the federation and Vilda, but many relented and three were part of the World Cup team.
Spain's men's coach Luis de la Fuente described Rubiales' behavior as "wrong."
"I hope that this unpleasant episode comes to an end as soon as possible for the good of Spanish football and that the competent bodies resolve and take the relevant decisions as quickly as possible," he told EFE. (AFP)