Spanish football chief apologizes for lip-kissing player

There have been calls for Luis Rubiales to resign over the incident, which occurred just after Spain’s win in the World Cup final

Kissing a female player on the lips after Spain’s historic victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup was a mistake, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales has acknowledged.

Spain beat England 1-0 in the final, which took place in Sydney, Australia on Sunday, to claim their first ever World Cup title. Rubiales apparently got carried away by the success as cameras caught him grabbing and kissing Spanish midfielder Jennifer Hermoso on her mouth during the awards ceremony immediately after the match ended.

The incident angered some users on social media, who are accusing the football chief of sexism, with many calling for his resignation. Spain’s Culture and Sports Minister Miquel Iceta has also joined the chorus of critics, saying Rubiales’ actions were “unacceptable” in the present atmosphere “of equality, of rights and respect for women.”

On Monday, RFEF, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, released a video clip in which Rubiales apologizes for his behavior and offers a explanation for it.

“I made a mistake, for sure. I have to accept it,” he said of the kiss. “In a moment of such emotion, without any bad intention or bad faith, what happened happened, in a very spontaneous way, with no bad faith from either side.”

Both Hermoso and himself “saw it as something natural and normal,” the football chief claimed. “But on the outside it has caused commotion, because people have felt hurt by it, so I have to apologize; there’s no alternative,” he added.

Rubiales also said that he’d learned from the incident that someone in an official position like him “should be more careful.” Rubiales is also on UEFA’s ruling executive committee.

In a video filmed in the dressing room after the final, Hermoso said that she “didn’t like” what the football chief did. But in another interview the player described the kiss as “a totally spontaneous mutual gesture… because of the huge joy of winning a World Cup.”

In RFEF’s Monday video clip, Rubiales also explained the harsh comments he’d made earlier about his critics. When preparing to board his flight out of Australia, he said that those who have been angered by the kiss were “idiots and stupid people.”

“I said [the criticism] seemed like idiocy – because, on the inside, nobody considered it important. But, on the outside, they had. So, I want to apologize to those people,” he said.

The football chief expressed regret that the whole affair marred the celebrations of what he called “the biggest success in our history in women’s football.”

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