Top defender Sergio Ramos (37-Spain)안전놀이터, who recently joined his “hometown team” Sevilla in his twilight years, has also publicly criticized the head of his country’s soccer federation for being embroiled in an unprecedented “kissing scandal.
According to major Spanish media outlets such as ‘Football España’, Ramos spoke in strong tones about Luis Rubiales, the president of his country’s football federation, who has been embroiled in controversy for forcibly kissing a female national team player during a press conference at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in Seville, Andalusia, Spain, on July 7 (ET).
“It’s a sensitive issue, (the president) behaved in an unacceptable way and made a mistake. Instead of talking about Mr. Rubiales, we should be celebrating the women’s national team, who are world champions. That’s what we should be talking about,” he said.
Rubiales grabbed and kissed her countrywoman Henriper Hermoso’s face during the awards ceremony after Spain’s victory at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand, which concluded last month. Hermoso later interacted with fans on a live social media broadcast and said she “didn’t feel good” about Rubiales’ “surprise kiss.
The players’ union, FootPro, which Hermoso is a member of, issued a statement saying it would “ensure that Mr. Rubiales is punished. The situation escalated with criticism from the government, including Equality Minister Irene Montero and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Rubiales initially apologized, but when FIFA’s ethics committee launched an investigation, he vowed to respond with a “legal fight,” claiming that the association had proof that Hermoso’s statement that he “never consented to the kiss” was false. FIFA eventually handed him a 90-day suspension.
The Rubiales family supported his innocence by going on hunger strike. But support for Hermoso grew, with Spain’s men’s and women’s national teams saying they would boycott international competitions unless Rubiales stepped down.
“After the initial (negative) reactions of Borja Iglesias, Aitor Ruibal and Éctor Beyerin, more male players have come forward to criticize Rubiales,” according to Football España. “Barcelona midfielder Oriol Romeu called the president pathetic, while Dani Carvajal said he will wait until he is convicted,” the publication reported.
Even world-class defender Ramos spoke out in support of Hermoso, putting Rubiales in an even more precarious position: “I want football to have a representative who really deserves it,” he said, adding his voice to the call for Rubiales’ ouster.
Meanwhile, Hermoso had filed a sexual assault complaint against Rubiales with Spanish prosecutors the day before. Spanish prosecutors believe Rubiales’ behavior could constitute sexual assault and have opened an investigation.
The situation has escalated into a human rights issue for female athletes, even reaching the United Nations (UN). On March 29, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raoul Falkirk said on social media, “Women in sports continue to face sexual harassment and abuse. We all have a responsibility to condemn and address it,” and “Through Hermoso, we stand with everyone working to end gender discrimination in sport.
“There is no indication that (the kiss) was consensual with Hermoso,” said UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, adding, “Sexism remains a significant problem in sport. The Spanish government and sports authorities must address this issue while respecting the rights of all female athletes.”