Spanish Football’s History of Sexism and Sexual Violence

Jennifer Hermoso, Courtesy of CNN

Luis Rubiales, former President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and Vice President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), recently resigned from both posts following his deliverance of an unwanted kiss with 2023 Women’s World Cup star player Jennifer “Jenni” Hermoso. Rubiales resigned Sunday, Sept. 10, amid weeks of fierce criticism over his act of sexual inappropriateness. 

“Today, I transmitted at 9:30 p.m. to the acting President, Mr. Pedo Rocha, my resignation from the position of President of the RFEF,” Rubiales wrote in a letter posted on X (the former Twitter). “I have also informed you that I have done the same with my position at UEFA, so that my position in the Vice Presidency can be replaced.”

Although Rubiales announced his resignation, he is adamant that it is unjustified.

“I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power to prevail,” added Rubiales. “My daughters, my family and the people who love me have suffered the effects of excessive persecution, as well as many falsehoods, but it is also true that on the street, more and more everyday, the truth is prevailing.” 

Rubiales’s unsolicited sexual advance upon Spanish forward Hermoso during the World Cup medal ceremony sparked condemnation in Spain and worldwide. 

The former head of the RFEF previously apologized and described the kiss as “mutual” – a claim denied by Hermoso

“I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part,” said Hermoso on social media. “Simply put, I was not respected.” 

Public outcry surrounding the unwanted kiss and Rubiales’s stalwart self-defense has seeped into every aspect of Spanish society, from politicians to sports stars. The issue has also sparked global discussions of sexism and sexual violence in women’s football. 

The previous head coach of the Spanish women’s football team received harsh scrutiny prior to the unwanted kiss. Jorge Vilda was filmed seemingly inappropriately touching a female staff member during the final game. Vilda has also been criticized for “micromanaging” his players and for displaying sexism. 

Vilda and Rubiales’s behavior have sparked a conversation about the presence of “macho culture” in Spain, a country facing widespread protests against sexual violence and sexism in recent years. 

More than 80 Spanish soccer players from numerous clubs signed a petition supporting Hermoso, saying they would not return to the national team if the “current leaders continue” in their posts. 

Rubiales’s behavior, including both the unwanted kiss and his response to the controversy, are the culmination of years of mistreatment of female players in Spain. The women’s national team has long lacked adequate training facilities, equipment, gear, and practices. Recently, fifteen players revolted against Vilda due to complaints of outdated training methods. Rubiales’s sexual violence has acted as a catalyst to reopen the discussion of objectification and equal rights in women’s sports.   

The RFEF’s actions have come at a key moment when changes need to be implemented. This situation in Spanish football represents a general global implicit and explicit sexism women face in sports. Sexism in female athletics does not necessitate an act of sexual violence; sexism in sports can also be an act of not providing female-fitted jerseys or forcing women to wear white shorts during menstrual cycles. This situation has ushered in a new conversation over this implicit and explicit sexism and over the sexualization of female athletes. This issue is not one women have to bear the brunt of — if female sports are to be regarded as highly as our male counterparts, sexism has to become a priority of the world and of both sexes. If the voices of female soccer players in Spain and globally are continuously disregarded, uproar will continue. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Phoenix