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Women's World Cup champs say they won't play for Spain until soccer chief is removed

Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales refused on Friday to resign his post.
Amr Nabil
/
AP
Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales refused on Friday to resign his post.

Many expected Friday to be the day that Luis Rubiales, the head of Spain's soccer federation, would tender his resignation. That's not what happened — and by the end of the day members of the national women's soccer team vowed not to play as long as Rubiales and other leaders remain in power.

At an emergency meeting of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Rubiales made a speech in which he claimed that the kiss he planted on the mouth of player Jennifer Hermoso after the Women's World Cup final was consensual and mutual, and claimed that he was the victim of "false feminists."

Rubiales said he will not resign — repeating that statement five times, to some applause from the audience of mostly men. Among those seen clapping were the coach of the women's team Jorge Vilda and men's national team coach Luis de la Fuente.

Federation Vice President Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of Spain's women's soccer program, and two others announced their resignations, the Associated Press reports, but Rubiales held firm.

Spain's national team players say that's unacceptable.

The players' union, Futpro, put out a statement on Friday in which Hermoso said that "at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me."

Spain's World Cup squad and more than 50 other players said in a statement that they refuse to play again for the national team unless the current leaders are removed.

"We want to end this statement asking for real changes, both sporting and structural, that help the National Team to continue growing, in order to transfer this great success to later generations. It fills us with sadness that such an unacceptable event is managing to tarnish the greatest success sport in Spanish women's soccer," the players said in the statement.

Hermoso put out her own statement on Friday. "I felt vulnerable and the victim of aggression, an impulsive, sexist, out-of-place act and without any kind of consent on my part. Simply, I was not respected," she wrote.

Many of the top national team players who likely would have been on the 2023 Women's World Cup squad had already refused to play for Spain's coach, Jorge Vilda, who was booed after the team's win.

Spain's government announced Friday it had started proceedings to have Rubiales suspended. If the country's Sport Court finds that he violated laws or regulations about sexist acts, it could declare him unfit to hold office at the federation.

FIFA announced Thursday that it is opening its own disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales.

On X, or Twitter, the hashtag "#SeAcabo" has been trending in Spain — "Se acabó" means "It's over."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.