Global football’s governing body temporarily suspended Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales as it investigates sexual harassment charges that have roiled the sport.
Under the suspension announced Saturday, Rubiales may not participate in any activities related to the sport at the national or international level for the next 90 days while FIFA’s disciplinary body looks into allegations that he kissed a player without her consent.
Rubiales kissed Spanish forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips as the team celebrated its victory in the Women’s World Cup last Sunday. The team’s 1-0 win against England has since been completely overshadowed by the controversy about the kiss, which Hermoso said she did not like.
Despite the escalating uproar — including the launch of FIFA’s disciplinary proceedings on Thursday — Rubiales defied expectations and refused to resign. Instead, he delivered a defiant speech on Friday casting himself as a victim of “false feminism” and insisted that Hermoso had given her permission for the kiss.
Hermoso rejected his claims again Friday evening. “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act without any consent on my part,” she said on social media, adding that she’d been pressured to make a statement defending Rubiales.
Dozens of Spanish football players said they wouldn’t play for the national team without a leadership change, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government is also pushing for the ouster of Rubiales.
On Saturday, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) lashed out at Hermoso and “third parties,” who a statement alleged had prepared her latest comments in order to “have the necessary elements” to trigger the suspension of Rubiales.
“Jennifer Hermoso lies in all the statements made against [Rubiales], as we will have the opportunity to prove at the appropriate time,” RFEF said in the statement on Saturday.
“No matter how many communiqués they may want to make to distort reality, it is impossible to change what happened,” the statement continued, concluding: “Afterwards, one may think that one has made a mistake, but one cannot change reality.”
In a separate statement published late Friday, the federation threatened legal action against Hermoso.
In suspending Rubiales on Saturday, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee Chair Jorge Ivan Palacio also barred Rubiales and the Spanish football federation from contacting Hermoso or those close to her in order to protect her “fundamental rights” and “the good order of the disciplinary proceedings.”
The FIFA statement ruled out providing any further details until the disciplinary committee reaches a final decision.
“FIFA reiterates its absolute commitment to respect the integrity of all persons and therefore condemns with the utmost vigor any behavior to the contrary,” it said.
This article has been updated with Saturday’s statement from the Spanish football federation.
Ali Walker contributed reporting.