Spanish prosecutors have launched an investigation that could end in sexual aggression charges against Spanish Football Federation boss Luis Rubiales.
The case revolves around the unwanted kiss Rubiales gave to star player Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the Women’s World Cup on August 20, according to a statement issued by Spanish prosecutors on Monday.
“We have agreed to contact Jennifer Hermoso to advise her of her rights as a victim of an alleged crime of sexual aggression over the next 15 days,” the statement said.
This comes after Rubiales was provisionally suspended by world football governing body FIFA over the weekend.
Rubiales is also under investigation by the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence, according to a statement published on the RFEF website on Sunday.
The RFEF held an “extraordinary and urgent” meeting Monday in the wake of these developments.
Meanwhile, Rubiales’ mother locked herself in a church and went on a hunger strike to protest the “inhumane, bloodthirsty hunt” of her 46-year-old son, Spanish media reported.
Ángeles Béjar reportedly said on Monday she would remain “indefinitely day and night” in the church in Motril, near Granada in southern Spain, pending justice for Rubiales.
The football boss and the RFEF have been locked in controversy since he kissed 33-year-old attacker Hermoso on the lips after Spain won their first Women’s World Cup title by beating England.
Rubiales said he made a mistake but called the kiss consensual, while Hermoso said she didn’t give her permission to kiss and felt hurt.
“I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulsive, sexist, inappropriate act without my consent,” she said on social media. “Put simply, I wasn’t respected.”
In a defiant speech on Friday, Rubiales refused to step down and vowed to “fight to the end” – a stance that sparked a wave of fierce criticism from teams, players, politicians, union officials and even the United Nations.
When asked to comment on the incident during a news conference on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric’s spokesman said: “I mean, how difficult is it not to kiss someone on the lips?”
“There remains a critical problem of sexism in sport and we hope that the Spanish authorities and government will deal with it in a way that respects the rights of all female athletes,” he added.
On Saturday, FIFA announced that it was suspending Rubiales for 90 days from “all football-related activities at national and international level” while the disciplinary proceedings are ongoing.
In response to Rubiales’ refusal to step down, RFEF vice-president Rafael del Amo and 11 members of Spain’s national women’s football program have resigned.
Hermoso and her World Cup team-mates said they would not play for Spain again until Rubiales was removed from his post.
However, the RFEF stands behind their boss, accusing Hermoso of lying about the incident and threatening legal action against her and others.
The President of Spain’s Supreme Council for Sport (CSD) Victor Francos expressed concern that the controversy could affect Spain’s bid to co-host the 2030 World Cup alongside Portugal and Morocco.
“I’m worried about the World Cup,” Francos said in a press conference on Monday. “Two weeks ago we were better positioned for the 2030 World Cup than today. But we are a stubborn government.”
Francos said he has been in touch with governing bodies to explain to them that “Spanish sport is not what we have seen these days and Spanish football is not what you have seen these days,” referring to it doing so on the Rubiales incident.