Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales remained defiant on Friday, saying he had made “some obvious mistakes” but had been treated unfairly over an unwanted kiss with a star player.
Rubiales came under increasing pressure to resign after kissing Gini Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory in Sydney last month.
He has insisted the act was consensual, a claim Hermoso vehemently rejects, with the player describing it as “impulsive, sexist and inappropriate act without any consent on my part”.
In a statement widely reported in Spanish media, Rubiales – the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation – criticized the “manufactured campaign” against him while saying he had also received great support from people on the streets and on social media.
He added, “On August 20, I made some obvious mistakes, which I deeply regret with all my heart. “It is true that I asked forgiveness for such mistakes,” Rubiales said in a statement on Friday.
“I have learned that no matter how great the joy and the depth of emotion, even when winning a World Cup, sports leaders should be required to show exemplary behaviour, and that was not the case for me,” he continued, adding that he apologizes to the players. Federation, fans and anyone who may feel offended by his actions.
However, Rubiales said the two sides agreed on “friendly embraces” and “reciprocal friendly gestures”, which took place on stage during the handing out of the World Cup medals.
Rubiales’ remarks, his first in days, came after the Spanish government suffered a setback in its attempts to dismiss the president Rubialis out of office.
Spain’s Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAD) agreed on Friday to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his wrongdoing was “very serious”, preventing his immediate suspension and forcing ministers to ask the court to do so instead.
In response, Culture and Sports Minister Mikel Eseta said in a press conference that he would file a separate complaint with TAD and request that Rubiales be removed from office until the investigation is resolved.
Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA, the governing body of international football, from all football-related activities for 90 days, but under Spanish law the government cannot stop him unless TAD deems his infractions to be “extremely serious”.
The court ruling and Rubiales’ continued defiance mean that the storm that has swept Spanish football will continue.
Members of the Women’s World Cup winning team refuse to play until he is sacked. Rubiales’ mother went on a hunger strike this week to support her son and was briefly hospitalized.
Pressure has been mounting on Rubiales to step down as president of the Spanish Football Federation after he dramatically refused to do so during a speech to the federation’s Extraordinary General Assembly last Friday, pledging to “fight to the end”.
Also this week, all 19 RFEF regional presidents called on Rubiales to resign, while also giving unanimous support to interim president Pedro Rocha, who took office after Rubiales was suspended by FIFA.
There are also questions about Jorge Vilda, coach of Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s team, with the Spanish Football Federation’s interim director suggesting he may not be long in coming for the role. Despite the win his tenure was controversial.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”