FIFA president finally breaks silence, says World Cup kiss ‘should never have happened’

Eleven days after Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales sparked international backlash during the country’s World Cup celebrations, FIFA president Gianni Infantino is breaking his silence.

“This should never have happened. But it did,” Infantino wrote on Instagram on Thursday.

Spain beat England 1-0 earlier this month to win its first-ever World Cup title, but the feat has largely been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Rubiales. During the World Cup trophy ceremony, which Infantino was present for, Rubiales gave Spain’s midfielder Jenni Hermoso an unsolicited kiss on the lips. Although Rubiales claimed the kiss was “mutual,” Hermoso maintained it was “non-consensual.”

“This is the last day of the month when Spain were crowned FIFA Women’s World Cup winners for the very first time,” Infantino wrote. “Sadly, however, the well-deserved celebration for these magnificent champions was spoiled by what happened after the final whistle. And what continued to happen in the following days.”

NOW WHAT, FIFA? Spain’s Luis Rubiales didn’t ‘do the right thing’ and resign when asked

In the following days since the incident, FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings on Aug. 24 against Rubiales, who refused to resign, and provisionally suspended him on Aug. 26 while the disciplinary committee investigates his conduct.

“FIFA’s disciplinary bodies immediately assumed their responsibility and took the necessary actions,” Infantino assured in his first public remarks on Instagram, where his comments have been turned off. “The disciplinary proceedings will continue their legitimate course.”

Infantino has regularly posted on his Instagram account since the incident, even sharing photos of himself attending an Inter Miami game to see 2022 World Cup-winning Lionel Messi play. But Infantino had failed up until Thursday to denounce or even acknowledge Rubiales’ inappropriate behavior, leading many to criticize his inaction. USA TODAY columnist Nancy Armour said Infantino looked “downright foolish,” especially after he said women have the power to convince men to do the right thing earlier this month.

“I say to all the women – and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home – I say to all the women that you have the power to change. Pick the right battles, pick the right fights. You have the power to change,” Infantino said ahead of the World Cup Final between England and Spain on Aug. 20. “You have the power to convince us, men, what we have to do and what we don’t have to do. You do it, just do it. With me, with FIFA, you will find open doors. Just push the doors, they are open.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during a press conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 19, 2023, ahead of the World Cup.

But that proved to be false. Hermoso and more than 80 current and former Spanish players, including Spain’s entire 2023 World Cup championship team, signed a statement refusing to play for the national team until Rubiales is removed, but Rubiales defiantly vowed to “fight to the end.”

On Thursday, Infantino concluded his statement, writing, “On our side, we should continue to focus on how to further support women and women’s football in future, both on and off the pitch. Upholding true values and respecting the players as persons as well as for their fantastic performances.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FIFA president Infantino: World Cup kiss shouldn’t have happened

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