An unwanted “Kiss” became the Tip of the Iceberg for a new Sport #MeToo movement in Spain

An unwanted “Kiss” became the Tip of the Iceberg for a new Sport ME too movement in Spain

Un "beso" no deseado se convirtió en la punta del iceberg de un nuevo movimiento Me too en el deporte de España

Patricia Gras

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It has been all over the news. Spain’s women won the Soccer World Cup this year, an accomplishment that was overshadowed by what appears to be just a non consensual “kiss” but like most news of the day, it has come with a lack of context and a lot of distraction from actual facts.

The pundits are talking. The politicians are attacking. The corrupt are silent. The hypocrites are lying, the feminists are protesting, everyone has an opinion and the players, well, they are a bit fed up with their permanently corrupt Spanish soccer federation and demand changes. They are also angry the whole “kiss” scandal has taken away from their major achievement, winning a world cup!

The song goes, a kiss is just a kiss..well this case it was inappropriate and why is it considered sexual assault? Because anyone touching, fondling or kissing without your permission could be considered by law a sexual agression and in this case if Hermoso files charges. This was not a spontaneous acceptable kiss on a date. Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football federation performed a kiss to star player Jenni Hermoso without consent in front of millions, though he argues it was consensual. The world saw it does not appear to be. We can argue if the victim soccer star player Jenni Hermoso really felt assaulted or not due to the video Rubiales sent to FIFA to defend his actions because she seemed to be fine after the so called “kiss.” but that is not the point. Whatever emotions she felt after the kiss is irrelevant because her boss, the man who decides whether she plays in the national team or not, the man who can destroy her career has the power to do so kissed her without her permission and there is a clear power imbalance.

Ask yourself how many women or men tend to keep quiet when their boss who pays their salary harasses them in any way? In this case it is not what happened. Hermoso chose to defend herself after Rubiales failed to quit sizable salaried job because he blamed her for the “kiss.” His federation also threatened to sue her and other players protesting the Rubiales scandal. This may have turned more public opinion against him.

And the reaction in Spain and the world has been clear. Most agree what he did was wrong, he needs to go but those who favor Rubiales say it was just a “kiss” and he is being wrongfully attacked for political reasons or by “false feminists.” Surely if Jenni Hermoso was having a great time, and her teammates were laughing about the kiss in the bus after the cup ceremony, the kiss can not be considered sexual harassment, but it is. Is society exaggerating here by holding him accountable? Could be, but maybe this is not just about the “kiss” because there is a long history behind it and perhaps that is the context missing in many stories.

Here is one of the reasons the kiss is actually the tip of the iceberg and why Spanish society has been so disturbed and polarized over the matter. The Spanish soccer federation has a reputation for corruption, misogyny, nepotism, sexism and for being clueless, especially towards women. By the way, most federations in non industrialized nations have similar problems, but this is Spain, home to the best female soccer players in the world.

The female Spanish squad has been protesting with predatory behavior by men for decades. As a result many women lost their careers. It started with Ignacio Quereda, the coach who was in charge for 27 years. He led a culture of bullying, condescension and control. Finally in 2015 he resigned after a players mutiny but the federation never admitted any wrongdoing. He was replaced by another questionable character “nepo baby” Jorje Vilda, whose father Angel Vilda who was highly influential in Spanish soccer, helped him get the job, a charge he denies.

Last year in September 15 players in his squad, considered some of the best players, went on strike. They wanted better work conditions, accusing management of bad treatment that affected their mental and physical health. They also had concerns about the physical care and training they were getting. The response from the federation? Vilda called it “a farce on the world stage.” The federation then asked the women to apologize. “We refuse to accept any type of pressure from any player.” Ask for forgiveness if you want to return to the national team.” Many of them kept their ground. Only three were asked to join the world cup team. Seven refused to be considered at all.

When Luis Rubiales refused to step down after the scandal, Many in the federation clapped at the end of his speech defending himself, including Jorje Vilda and the Men’s national coach, but would they not possibly lose their high paying jobs if they didn’t support him? A few days later after public dissapproval these coaches changed their tune and attacked Rubiales.

This is why the players are asking for structural changes in the federation. There is no independent oversight.

Just as the me too movement in the USA, more women are now speaking out and more are listening. Tamara Ramos, a staff member for the Spanish Footballers association where Rubiales had been president said he commented on her underwear and spoke to her with disrespect during her tenure.

Juan Rubiales his uncle, left the federation after reports surfaced of Luis Rubiales role in federation super cup negotiations with Saudi Arabia that earned him a nice commission for doing so. He also stated his nephew needed a “reeducation in his relationship with women.”

Fifa has suspended him for 3 months, but the Spanish administrative sports court opened a “serious” but “not very serious “ breach of conduct investigation into the Spanish soccer chief for the kiss, which means for now, the government can not suspend him. Hermoso however, can still press charges.

Rubiales continues to defend himself, considers himself a victim of “social assassination” and insists the kiss was consensual. “Although information about this matter is being subjected to numerous manipulations, lies and censorship, the truth has only one path and that’s why I repeat, I trust justice will be served.”

Today Spain women’s football team refuse to play until he is fired. As for Jorje Vilda, his whole coaching team has quit. Finally, after weeks, the federation fired him.

The saga continues, but undoubtedly if the women stick to their decision not to play, it might be too much for Rubiales and the federation which now wants him to resign. On the other hand, if he remains in his post, what will the female players do? Should they get their own soccer federation?

A few days ago, Sarina Wiegman, the coach for the British Lionesses was chosen the best European coach of the year and with a touch of class expressed support for the Spanish women’s team. The team that beat her own team for the world cup. “The game has grown so much but there’s also still a long way to go in women’s football and in society. And I would like to dedicate this award to the Spanish team, who played such good football. This team deserves to be celebrated and listened to.”

Many have expressed what happened will eventually be good for women and the sport, but only if it forces proper change. So far, the female soccer players will have to wait, something unfortunately they are accustomed to doing. Rubiales may still be able to come back to his post despite their pleas for change.

So was this really just about an inappropriate kiss?

If you want to learn more about this issue, a 2021 documentary titled “Breaking the Silence” will shine a light with some details.

-Foto de jason charters en Unsplash

Patricia GrasPatricia Gras is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. She is the founder and producer of the online series Passion Time.



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There are 16 comments for this article
  1. Carolina at 9:33 am

    The simple correct action would have been for Rubiales to say “I am so sorry, I got carried away by the emotions of a well deserved victory” and then offer his resignation. Why is it now the fault of the women who, all they did was bring victory and pride to Spanish soccer?

  2. Yngrid P at 10:07 am

    Patricia, thank you. This is a very good article. It makes us to reflect that there is great need to educate. Your lines made me to reflect if in my own life experience or of the others l know exist a form of abuse. Definitely, it is extremely important for everyone to learn what should be the ideal way to behave in our society. We need to break old paradigms and establish lines of respect within each other.

  3. Roberto Alsina at 10:29 am

    As the writer says, context is very important to understand the meaning of what happened and the reaction world wide to it!
    This article explains very clearly the real implications of an apparent “innocent” kiss, from the legal as well as the social standpoint.

  4. Valeria Amisano at 2:33 pm

    I was born in 1972, In the middle of important battles to get finally equality between men and women. I was convinced that we would reach it at least in western countries. Unfortunately I was too optimistic. I am so sorry to see that we haven’t yet been able to overcome the macho culture.

  5. Sherry walshak at 3:08 pm

    This article provided insights and perspectives that helped me see the bigger picture beyond the kiss. It also showed that sadly, we have a long way to go before women get the equality and respect we deserve, as well as men understanding the proper boundaries.

  6. Maria Hernandez at 6:26 pm

    It’s a shame their hugely remarkable celebration was overshadowed by such a violation and tasteless act. I only pray the team has felt some vindication and sense of relief to know he’s out.

  7. Francisca Rimbau at 7:01 pm

    Excellent article, it says exactly what is happening with the female spanish soccer team and the federation. Looks like finally Justice won and now Mr Rubiales and Mr Vilda are out. Again thanks for this very well centered, clear and well written article.

  8. Rosalinda Gonzalez at 1:43 pm

    Great article on the subject! Gras clearly articulates the power dynamics behind the “kiss” and really shows support for the truth that what happened was considered harassment and it is the tip of the iceberg to poor ethics in the Spanish Soccer Federation. I like how this article takes on a historical perspective of the women before Hermoso and how they lost their careers in going against harassment and speaking out. As well as highlighting the unrepentant behavior of the Spanish federation.

  9. David Alexander at 2:14 pm

    Brilliant observations, Patricia. Insightful and concise.

    I completely agree with the author’s perspective on this issue. The incident involving the Spanish women’s soccer team and the non-consensual “kiss” is indeed far more than just a simple act. It symbolizes a broader problem within the Spanish soccer federation, which has a long history of corruption, misogyny, and a lack of respect for women in the sport.

    The argument that this was just a harmless kiss is misguided. Consent is paramount in any interaction, and when it’s violated, it becomes a matter of sexual assault. The power imbalance between Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, and star player Jenni Hermoso cannot be overlooked. Regardless of Hermoso’s immediate reaction, Rubiales’s actions were inappropriate and unacceptable.

    Moreover, this incident is not isolated but rather a reflection of a deeply ingrained culture of mistreatment and discrimination against female soccer players in Spain. The federation’s response to players’ concerns and protests in the past, such as labeling their legitimate demands as a “farce on the world stage,” demonstrates a clear lack of respect for women’s rights and well-being in the sport.

    It’s encouraging to see the Spanish women’s football team taking a stand against this injustice by refusing to play until Rubiales is fired. The fact that the coaching team also resigned in solidarity shows the depth of the problem within the federation. It’s high time for structural changes and independent oversight to ensure a fair and respectful environment for female soccer players in Spain.

    This incident serves as a stark reminder that the issues facing women in sports are not limited to a single “kiss” but are indicative of systemic problems that need to be addressed. It is my hope that this situation leads to real change, not just within Spanish soccer but also as a broader catalyst for improving women’s rights and opportunities in sports worldwide.

  10. Lucia Chibán at 8:27 am

    La lucha del feminismo que va ocupando todos los espacios, y que también muestra lo que todavía le queda por delante. Particularmente en los ámbitos más machistas como sigue siendo el fútbol. Excelente artículo Paty! Congrats. Vamos por esos cambios estructurales

  11. Dmitri Krunk at 10:49 am

    So important for these words to be said… Thank you for helping the world digest what happened in Spanish Soccer over the last few weeks!

  12. Patricia gras at 11:49 am

    I would like to thank everyone who has commented on this article. I appreciate it. I am a proponent of giving context to whatever story I write. This is an ongoing story. Update is that both Coach Jorje Vilda has been fired and Luis Rubiales finally resigned. The women will be coached by second in command Montse, and Jeni Hermoso has filed a legal complaint.

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