While Indians are gloating over the ongoing diplomatic row between India and Canada, their European counterparts are spending their evenings debating a salacious scandal. The story begins on August 20 when the Spanish and UK teams played the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Sydney. The Spanish women’s team won the match 1-0, with Captain Olga Carmona scoring the only goal in the first half. It became Spain’s maiden WWC title, arguably one of the world’s most football-crazy nations.
After the match was over and the Spanish women’s squad was walking through the presentation stage, a huge controversy was just about to unfold.
It so happened that Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales left a passionate kiss on the lips of 33-year-old Jenni Hermoso. In the video, he is seen holding her head tightly with both hands while their lips are tightly locked in a kiss before unlocking and Hermoso walking away. The “kiss” live telecast worldwide instantly put Rubiales in a tight spot, with media selling it more than the Spanish women’s football team’s victory.
This episode brought another footage of an earlier incident from the same match to light. Here, Rubiales is seen grabbing his crotch in a lewd victory gesture, standing in his presidential box with others, close to Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter, Princess Sofia. Later, Rubiales said he was ashamed of grabbing his crotch but insisted there was nothing wrong with the kiss. He said it was consensual, but Hermoso insisted it wasn’t.
For over a month, Spanish media outlets have discussed no other issue as elaborately as this controversy. The rest of the European media has only outdone their Spanish counterpart.
In subsequent events, the Spanish women’s team put up a united front and demanded that they not play any match until the entire women’s football administration was sacked. The matter reached the court. FIFA suspended Rubiales over the kiss controversy. Rubiales defended himself from one forum to another. Finally, he has resigned as Spain FA president. He says he is being witch-hunted by fake feminists and some politicians, including two ministers in the current government.
After over a month, the ramifications of the kissing incident are still unfolding. There is a new story every day.
In the latest, the Spanish football federation has been denied hosting duties for the upcoming annual meeting of the European governing body, UEFA. Initially scheduled for February 8, Madrid was set to be the host city for the 2024 UEFA Congress, which would gather representatives from 55-member federations, along with the group-stage draw for the upcoming men’s Nations League competition. UEFA’s executive committee has decided to relocate both of these events to Paris on the same date.
So much has been written in the press and talked on primetime TV that it’s unlikely that European people would be aware of what conspired between India and Canada.
On August 23, three days after the kissing scandal broke out, video footage from the same match shows the head coach of the Spanish women’s football team, Jorge Vilda, grabbing the breast of a female coach.
“In the moments following Olga Carmona’s World Cup-winning goal, the Spanish staff celebrated, but Vilda’s arm appeared to move from his colleague’s shoulder to her breast for longer than a brief moment before returning,” wrote a news correspondent in his report. In the video that has no audio from the exact location, the woman staff is seen opening her mouth in an apparent “ouch” moment.
Vilda has also been fired, but not because of this act. He has been fired for supporting Rubiales and as part of the broader clean-up.
The Guardian writes in a lengthy report, “The grandson of a player, the son of a teacher and a hairdresser, the divorced father of three, Rubiales’ own dad was the PSOE mayor of Motril. He qualified as a lawyer but despite the broken legs he did become a footballer. Not a brilliant one, but determined. In his words, a warrior and certainly a leader.”
In his defense, Rubiales told how her elder sister fell on him when he was six and broke his legs. Doctors claimed Rubiales could do anything but not play football. But he did play football and went on to become one of the most successful football administrators until this controversy brought him down. Rubiales says he is a fighter and warrior and will fight for his honour in the court. (IPA Service)