The Spanish men’s team has expressed “solidarity” with the World Cup-winning women’s side in condemning Luis Rubiales’s “unacceptable behaviour”.
In a significant intervention which pushes the beleaguered federation president closer to the brink, players said the women’s team’s triumph over England was “tarnished”.
Alvaro Morata, César Azpilicueta, Rodri and Marco Asensio, the team’s captains, issued the statement as the kiss furore enters a third week. Rubiales, who reaffirmed his plan “to prove the truth” over the weekend, is refusing to relent despite global criticism for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips on Aug 20. Rubiales is serving a 90-day suspension by Fifa and has been ordered not to contact Hermoso, who says the kiss was not consensual.
In the statement, the men’s players have said they wanted to “highlight several issues regarding the latest events that have damaged the image of Spanish football”. Their statement went on: “First of all, we want to convey, once again, our pride and our most sincere congratulations to the Women’s National Team for the title of world champions in Sydney.
“A historical milestone full of meaning that will mark a before and after in Spanish women’s football, inspiring many women with a triumph of incalculable value. For this reason, we want to regret and express our solidarity with the players who have seen their success tarnished.”
Over the past week alone, Rubiales has learnt he faces a preliminary sexual assault investigation and been told he should resign by regional chiefs in his own federation.
All 11 of the Spanish women’s team coaching staff, bar manager Jorge Vilda, have since resigned, citing the behaviour of Rubiales. The men’s players have now added: “We want to reject what we consider unacceptable behaviour on the part of Mr Rubiales, who has not lived up to the institution he represents. We place ourselves firmly and clearly on the side of the values that sport represents. Spanish football must be an engine of respect, inspiration, inclusion and diversity and must set an example with its conduct both on and off the field.
“From today, we face a decisive concentration for the future of Spanish football on our way to qualify for Euro2024 with two games against Georgia and Cyprus. We would like that, from now on, we could focus on sporting issues given the relevance of the challenges that lie ahead.”
Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch while celebrating in the VIP area in Stadium Australia, with Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter standing nearby, said in his latest statement: “On 20 August, I made some obvious mistakes, for which I sincerely, from the heart, regret….Although information about this matter is being subjected to numerous manipulations, lies, and censorship, the truth has only one path, and that’s why I repeat, I trust that justice will be served.”