In a significant development, Spain’s renowned football player, Jenni Hermoso, has taken legal action by filing a criminal complaint regarding an unsolicited kiss on her lips by the suspended football chief, Luis Rubiales, during the Women’s World Cup final. Prosecutors have been investigating the incident, which could potentially lead to charges of “sexual assault” under Spanish law.
Hermoso’s formal complaint, submitted on Tuesday, amplifies the likelihood of legal proceedings against Rubiales. The National Court’s prosecutor’s office intends to present its complaint against Rubiales in due course.
Under Spanish legislation, sexual assault encompasses a broad spectrum of offenses, ranging from online harassment and inappropriate touching to rape, each carrying distinct penalties. A non-consensual kiss, depending on circumstances, could result in a fine or up to four years of imprisonment, according to a spokesperson from the prosecutor’s office.
The controversial incident occurred when Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), forcibly kissed Hermoso during the medal ceremony following Spain’s victory in Sydney on August 20. Hermoso subsequently described the kiss as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part,” asserting that it left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of an assault.”
Rubiales maintains that the kiss was consensual, despite the widespread backlash and FIFA’s provisional suspension of him for 90 days. In response to his refusal to step down from his position, 81 women’s football players went on strike, citing Rubiales’ vehement defense of his actions, which included denouncing “false feminism.” They insisted on a change in RFEF’s leadership before resuming play.
The top sports court in Spain (TAD) also initiated an investigation into Rubiales following a complaint from the government. Despite the suspension, Rubiales is determined to vindicate himself, reiterating that the kiss was “a mutual and consensual act” characterized by “overflowing jubilation on both sides.”
Amid the ongoing controversy, the RFEF issued an apology for Rubiales’ conduct and terminated the contract of the Spain women’s coach, Jorge Vilda, in connection with the scandal. Montserrat Tome, formerly Vilda’s assistant, has been appointed as the new coach, marking the first time a woman has led the team.
The national team is scheduled to play Nations League qualifying matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26, respectively.
In a related development, Spanish men’s team defender, Dani Carvajal, faced criticism for his comments on the matter, where he emphasized the importance of maintaining the presumption of innocence until facts are established. Carvajal later clarified his remarks, expressing solidarity with Hermoso and recognizing the challenging circumstances surrounding the incident.