Spain men’s national team has hit out at the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ of Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales in the ongoing ‘kiss-gate’ scandal. Senior players, Alvaro Morata, Cesar Azpilicueta, Rodri, and Marco Asensio on Monday September 4, read a statement on behalf of the entire team, who were present for a press conference at the start of the international break.
The move comes weeks after Rubiales sparked outrage when he kissed Spain player Jenni Hermoso on the mouth as she stepped up to receive her medal following Spain’s 1-0 win in the Women’s World Cup final.
Footage also emerged that showed Rubiales grabbing his crotch while standing near Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter Princess Infanta Sofia – which he has since apologised for.
Hermoso has since insisted the kiss was not consensual, and dozens of Spanish players have gone on strike, with almost all of the coaching staff resigning in protest.
Rubiales, however, has refused to resign, with an investigation into sexual abuse underway. The statement began:
‘Once concentrated in Las Rozas, the National Team players want to highlight several issues regarding the latest events that have damaged the image of Spanish football. First of all, we want to convey, once again, our pride and our most sincere congratulations to the women’s national team for the title of World Champions in Sydney.’A historical milestone full of meaning that will mark a before and after in Spanish women’s football, inspiring many women with a triumph of incalculable value. For this reason, we want to regret and express our solidarity with the players who have seen their success tarnished.
The statement then went onto criticise Rubiales, before suggesting that the team will focus on their games ahead. Luis de la Fuente’s side will travel to Georgia to play their seventh qualifying game, before facing Cyprus back at home next Tuesday.
‘We want to reject what we consider unacceptable behaviour on the part of Mr. Rubiales, who has not lived up to the institution he represents,’ the statement continued. We place ourselves firmly and clearly on the side of the values that sport represents. Spanish football must be an engine of respect, inspiration, inclusion and diversity and must set an example with its conduct both on and off the field. From today, we face a decisive concentration for the future of Spanish football on our way to qualify for Euro 2024 with two games against Georgia and Cyprus. We would like that, from now on, we could focus on sporting issues given the relevance of the challenges that lie ahead.’
There has been controversy surrounding de la Fuente himself, with the 62-year-old apologising for applauding Rubiales during a speech saying he wouldn’t resign. De la Fuente stated that he believed that Rubiales was going to resign at the meeting, but applauded the under-fire boss’ words as he sat next to women’s manager Jorge Vilda, who could also be sacked from his role. As reported by Marca, De la Fuente said:
‘What I did is unjustifiable. What I’m trying to expose is the context. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know how to live up to it and I couldn’t control my emotions. When you later reflect and see yourself on cameras… I don’t recognize myself. Inside the forest one sees nothing but branches and when one separates from the forest one sees the true situation.’ Rubiales, meanwhile, has claimed he is the ‘victim of a political and media lynching’ who is actually ‘advancing feminism’ as he continues to fight attempts to suspend him.
FIFA has already handed Rubiales a 90-day ban and Mail Sport revealed the governing body is pushing for a 15-year ban from all football. In Spain, the Sports Administrative Tribunal (TAD) has opened a case against the 46-year-old, but it is for ‘serious’, rather than ‘very serious’ misconduct.