Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales refused to resign Friday after a week of heavy criticism for his unsolicited kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s Women’s World Cup win.
“I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign,” shouted Rubiales at an emergency meeting of the soccer federation, to applause.
“A consensual ‘peck’ is enough to get me out of here? I will fight until the end,” he added.
Rubiales, 46, was expected to step down as president of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) after government ministers and figures within the sport demanded his resignation and world football’s governing body FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against him.
One Spanish minister described his actions as “sexual violence.”
Rubiales said the pressure he has received this week from politicians and clubs was an attempt “to publicly assassinate me” and said he would defend himself by “taking action” against those people.
The RFEF chief claimed his kiss on Hermoso’s lips was consensual and done in the same spirit as kissing his child.
“It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual, euphoric, and consensual,” said Rubiales.
Speaking about the kiss, Hermoso said in an Instagram video streamed in the changing room after the final Sunday that “I didn’t like it, but what can I do?”
Her players’ union later issued a statement on her behalf saying it would defend her interests and ensure that the act “does not go unpunished.”
The president did apologize Friday for grabbing his crotch during the celebrations of the 1-0 win against England in the final while standing next to Spanish Queen Letizia.
“I want to say sorry for the deeds that happened in a moment of euphoria – I grabbed that part of my body and did so looking at Jorge Vilda [the coach],” Rubiales said.
“I was so emotional, I lost control and I took my hands there,” he added.
After the speech, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Diaz, said that Rubiales’ speech and refusal to resign were “unacceptable.”
“The government must act and take urgent measures: Impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office,” Diaz wrote on the social media network X, formerly known as Twitter.
Spanish Women’s players past and present have been publicly tweeting their support for Hermoso.
After Rubiales’s speech on Friday, Spanish Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas wrote on social media: “This is unnacceptable. It’s over. With you comrade.”
Patri Guijarro, one of Spain’s most talented midfielders, also wrote online: “It’s over.”
Guijarro, Putellas and 13 others players submitted a letter of resignation in September overcomplaints about the cultureunder team coach Jorge Vilda. Guijarro said his management had an impact on her “emotional state,” and refused to play in the World Cup in protest.
Undeterred, Rubiales announced Friday that he was awarding Vilda a new, four-year contract worth $540,000 a year.
The previous manager of the women’s national team, Ignacio Quereda, was accused of sexual coercion and homophobia by former players.
Borja Iglesias and Hector Bellerin, players with the Spanish men’s team, both submitted their resignation from the national squad in solidarity with Hermoso Friday.
Rose Manister contributed to this report.