Spanish soccer head under fire for kissing World Cup winner

Aug 21, 2023, 12:24pm EDT
Spain's Jennifer Hermoso and President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales after the match REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Jenna Moon/

The head of Spain’s soccer federation is under fire for kissing player Jenni Hermoso after the team’s World Cup win over England Sunday. Luis Rubiales hugged Hermoso and kissed her on the lips — a move that has earned him condemnation from Spain’s government. Rubiales initially called his critics “idiots” but has since apologized.

Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, called the kiss “a form of sexual violence that we women suffer on a daily basis.”

Addressing the kiss in an Instagram live video, Hermoso — Spain’s leading career goal scorer — said she “didn’t like it,” but later said in a statement issued by the federation that it “was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings.”

Sexism and harassment are commonplace towards women soccer supporters in the U.K., an investigation by The Athletic found. A 2021 survey by Her Game Too found that 216 of 370 respondents had experienced sexual harassment while viewing a soccer match at a pub or other venue. As a result of ongoing harassment, some women avoid going to soccer games entirely, or find different routes to get there in order to avoid male fans.2

Dismantling sexism isn't as straightforward as winning the Women's World Cup, Candace Buckner argues in the Washington Post. Women in sports aren't just expected to play the game — they're also required to advocate for their teams, argue for the same pay men receive, and hold those in charge accountable. "What female athletes do on the pitch, on a clay court, on the hardwood or wherever else they can find a career in sports, that’s just half of the job description," Buckner writes. "They do the heavy lifting on all the matters outside of the game because they have to."1

Twelve players for Spain did not go to the Women's World Cup3 over ongoing issues with the country's soccer federation. The team has been embroiled in a dispute with coach Jorge Vilda, who they have alleged is controlling and have accused him of cultivating an environment which impacted their mental health. Until 2019, players were forced to keep the doors of their hotel rooms unlocked so that federation staff could perform "bed checks."4