Luis Rubiales, the Spanish soccer federation president whose antics tarnished Spain’s Women’s World Cup title Sunday, publicly apologized Monday for kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso during a postgame ceremony.
Rubiales forcibly kissed Hermoso on the lips during an enthusiastic embrace shortly after Hermoso received her winners medal on an on-field podium. The moment was captured by live TV broadcasts and triggered an international outcry.
“It seems unacceptable to me,” Spain’s minister for culture and sport, Miquel Iceta, said in a TV interview. “We’re in a moment of equality, of rights and respect for women. We all have to be particularly careful in our attitudes and our actions. I think it’s unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her.”
Others pointed out that the federation’s policy on sexual violence stipulates that “forced kisses” are considered “unacceptable conduct with immediate consequences.” Fans, media members and a wide array of soccer figures called for his resignation or removal.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation has not yet announced any punishment. On Monday, it released a video to various media outlets that included Rubiales’ apology.
“I made a mistake, for sure,” Rubiales said in Spanish. “I have to accept it. In a moment of such emotion, without any bad intention or bad faith, what happened, happened, in a very spontaneous way, with no bad faith from either side.
“We saw it as something natural and normal,” he continued in the video — which was not posted on federation’s social media channels. “But on the outside it has caused commotion, because people have felt hurt by it, so I have to apologize; there’s no alternative. I have to learn from this and understand that a president of an institution as important as the federation — above all in ceremonies and that kind of thing — should be more careful.”
In the more immediate aftermath of the kiss, Rubiales had dismissed his critics as “idiots everywhere.” He’d said on Spanish radio: “When two people have a minor show of affection, we can’t heed idiocy.”
He addressed that comment in his Monday video as well.
“There are also some declarations I made where, within this context, I said [the outcry] seemed like idiocy — because on the inside, nobody considered it important,” he said. “But on the outside they had. So, I want to apologize to those people.
“I’m also saddened, because this is the biggest success in our history in women’s football, the second World Cup that we’ve won, and this has affected the celebration.”
He did not address his postgame locker-room declaration that he would marry Hermoso; nor his celebration shortly after the final whistle, which included grabbing his crotch; nor the battle with women’s national team players that he publicized and inflamed last September.
FIFA has not yet commented on Rubiales’ actions or any consequences.