MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish soccer federation president has been criticised by government ministers for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the celebrations of their women’s World Cup victory.
Hermoso was heard telling teammates afterward in the locker room she “didn’t like it” in a video posted on Instagram and YouTube by El Mundo newspaper and other media outlets.
The kiss happened as Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish soccer federation, distributed gold medals among the team following their 1-0 victory over England on Sunday.
Hermoso later played down the incident in a statement sent to Spanish news agency EFE by the federation.
“It was mutual gesture that was totally spontaneous prompted by the huge joy of winning a world cup,” the statement said. “The ‘presi’ and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has always been 10 (out of 10) and this was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
Asked again about the incident on Spain’s COPE Radio station, she said: “I wish they created (controversy) involving someone else, I’m a world champion and that’s what matters.”
Rubiales meanwhile denounced those raising questions as “idiots”.
“The kiss with Jenni? There are idiots everywhere. When two people have a moment of affection that means nothing more, you can’t listen to idiocy. We are the champions, that’s it,” he said according to Radio Marca.
However, ministers and parts of the media were angry at the gesture.
Acting Culture and Sports Minister Miquel Iceta said on Monday on RNE radio the kiss was unacceptable and asked Rubiales to give an explanation and apologise.
A non-consensual kiss is “a kind of sex violence we suffer all women daily, which was until now invisible, and which we cannot normalise”, acting Gender Equality Minister Irene Montero said on the X social network, formerly known as Twitter.
Acting Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra, who belongs to Montero’s party, asked “if they do that with all of Spain watching, what might they do privately?”
A column in Spain’s top-selling El Pais newspaper on Monday morning was titled: “Jenni didn’t like the kiss and we didn’t either” – describing it as “an intrusion, an invasion of privacy, an aggression”.
Gender issues are a powerful topic in Spain. The socialist-led government has presided over a raft of legal reforms around gender change, abortion and sex work, but a loophole in its law around sexual consent let rapists out of jail, resulting in a significant electoral loss by Montero’s far-left Podemos party, in the government coalition, in July’s election.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Fernando Kallas; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Alison Williams)
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