Infamous kiss leads Rubiales and Vilda to leave Spanish soccer

Spanish soccer hopes to erase this embarrassing chapter, says sports writer Aurora Stewart.
After weeks of pressure from the sports world and Spanish society, Luis Rubiales has resigned. He stepped down from his position as the Spanish soccer federation president late Sunday, Sept. 10 after the backlash against him for non-consensually kissing a Spanish soccer player at a celebration of her World Cup victory.

Amid this controversy, Spain’s soccer federation fired women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda. He first fell under public fire after applauding Rubiales’ speech aiming at “false feminists.” He later seemed to change his tune calling Rubiales’ behavior improper and claiming the drama he had caused tarnished the Women’s World Cup victory. This is not the first bout of criticism received by Vilda. Approximately 10 months prior to the World Cup, letters were produced by and personally signed by a dozen players complaining about Vilda and the conditions for the national team under his leadership. The letter spoke on the negative impact Vilda had on their “emotional state” and health stating, “As a result, I do not currently consider myself to be in a condition to be chosen for the national team and I ask not to be called up until the situation is resolved.” They insisted they did not want his resignation, seeming they were simply calling for a change in their treatment under the coaching of Vilda.

This kiss has not only caused Rubiales and Vilda a great deal of fallout in his career, but it also has and could continue to have an enormous impact on Spain. As protests filled the streets of Spain, Spanish soccer and politics have worries far beyond the vulgarity of Rubiales’ actions. Spain has been bidding to host the Men’s World Cup in 2030 along with Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine. This embarrassing chapter for soccer jeopardized the multitude of benefits hosting said event could have for Spain. The boost in tourism and resulting economic benefits for Spain and the negative impact on the overall reputation of Spain due to the apparent disdain held worldwide for Rubiales’ actions are a large part of the motivation to drastically reprimand Rubiales and Vilda.

Rubiales may no longer be associated with Spanish soccer, but he is still in a deal of trouble. He is being called to testify to a judge in Madrid about the infamous kiss. Hermoso filed an official complaint with Spanish prosecutors accusing Rubiales of sexual assault. Hermoso has consistently asserted the kiss was non-consensual, while Rubiales claims she did in fact consent. Her case also accuses him of coercion claiming he allegedly pressured her and her family to speak out in defense of Rubiales once the controversy began. Just last year Spain passed a new sexual consent law that eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault.” This makes any non-consensual sexual act punishable. If the case ends up going to trial, it could mean anything from a fine to prison time for Rubiales.

Vilda is being replaced by his deputy Montse Tomé. She will be the Spanish women’s soccer team’s first female head coach. Her debut match will be against Sweden on Sept. 22. Her new role will hopefully mark the end of controversy for the team and the beginning of a better environment for the players.

Post Author: Aurora Stewart