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by Sofia Villegas
29 August 2023
An own goal: Why the actions of Luis Rubiales continue to overshadow Spain's World Cup win

Jenni Hermoso is kissed by Luis Rubiales during the FIFA Womens World Cup 2023

An own goal: Why the actions of Luis Rubiales continue to overshadow Spain's World Cup win

In the climax of Spain’s winning of the Women’s World Cup, front pages should be flooded with tears and smiles of 22 players who managed to break the barrier of “female sports are boring”. Instead, in an ironically unexpected turn of events, a man is front and centre of a show to which he should only be a spectator to.

The 46-year-old Spanish Football Federation president, Luis Rubiales, has tarnished what was meant to be a day to remember in female sport history with his macho behaviour – an unwanted, unnecessary, and unasked-for kiss.

At first, Rubiales tagged as “douchebags” and “idiots” those who criticised him. It was irrelevant how the woman he kissed, World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso, felt  – although she had said in a post-game video that she had not liked it. For the president it was a spontaneous thing that could be swept under the rug.

Except this time it was not. Significant backlash led him to make a video where he said, “he was probably wrong”, and that it was a simply “an emotional outburst from both sides”. It almost seemed like he was doing us a favour by giving us a half-hearted apology. Yet grabbing someone’s head and pressing your lips to theirs is not a consensual embrace.

Under pressure, Rubiales was forced to give a press conference a few days later. In other words, he was forced to attempt a PR stunt to save his career.

It is painfully funny that only when his reputation was really on the line, was when he decided to take the matter seriously. With sad eyes and a downbeat appearance he played victim to “false feminism”, as he firmly stated he would not quit.

The president, wearing a cloak of self-proclaimed innocence, described the ongoing movement against him as a “social murder”. He reminded attendees of the blood and tears he had put into the success of the Spanish organisation – framing it as get out of jail card for any perceived misbehaviour. Classic attitudes out of the misogynistic playbook.

Sadly, these outrageous statements were welcomed by applause within a room unsurprisingly full of men. Outrageous statements, which were later supported by his employers, who declared they would take legal actions against the player for lying. Once again, an organisation unsurprisingly full of men. This is not a coincidental trend, but a tragic reality.

However, rather than putting out this feminist flame, these events ignited a fire that is now out of their control.

The 81 female football players have refused to play for Spain unless Rubiales is replaced. Banners and T-shirts have appeared worldwide showing support for the so-called “liar”, Jenni Hermoso.

Social media, which has often become a weapon of self-destruction, this time has served its purpose to give a voice to the masses. Fury has spread to the chant of “Se acabo” (“no more”).

Women are done with abusive assertions of power. Amid the current euphoria and collectiveness, the question is not whether change will happen, but when it will. 

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Read the most recent article written by Sofia Villegas - AI-powered test could save millions in disease control spending.

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