Geneva — FIFA opened a disciplinary case Thursday against a Spanish soccer official who kissed a player on the lips as he celebrated the team’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee will look into whether the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, has breached the federation’s rules relating to the “fundamental rules of decent behaviour” and “behaving in a manner that is discrediting the sport of football and/or FIFA”.
Rubiales kissed his player Jenny Hermoso on the lips during the trophy and medal ceremony on Sunday after Spain beat England 1-0 in Sydney, Australia.
Minutes earlier, Rubiales grabbed his genitals as a gesture of victory in the exclusive section of the seats where Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofia were standing nearby.
Hermoso said she did not like the kiss, and the national players’ federation representing her – who was led by the 46-year-old Rubiales – on Wednesday called for his behavior to not go unpunished.
FIFA responded on Thursday.
“FIFA reiterates its unwavering commitment to respecting the integrity of all individuals and strongly condemns any conduct contrary to this,” FIFA said, without specifying the actions of Rubiales, who are under investigation.
“The gesture of holding his testicles in the pulpit is a gesture that no one can defend,” Victor Francos, Spain’s Minister of State for Sports, said on Wednesday.
FIFA did not give a timetable for the referee. Disciplinary judges at the authority can impose penalties on individuals that range from warnings to fines to suspension from sports.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee is chaired by Colombian lawyer Jorge Palacio, a former labor court judge and member of the state’s constitutional court.
The case is likely to be judged by three of the 16 committee members. Three of the 16 women are from England, Mexico and Thailand.
Rubiales is UEFA’s vice-president, a position that pays him €250,000 ($270,000) each year plus expenses, and he was UEFA’s most senior representative at women’s soccer’s biggest match.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has not yet commented on the behavior of Rubiales, who is due to host the next UEFA annual congress in Madrid in February.
The Spanish Football Federation, which Rubiales has led for five years, is holding an emergency meeting on Friday in Madrid as the agenda allows for questions about the controversy.
It is unclear if the meeting will boost support for Rubiales or respond to widespread pressure from the Spanish government and football officials to remove him.
Rubiales, who led the Spanish players’ union for eight years before taking over as president of the federation in 2018, currently heads the UEFA-backed bid to host the men’s World Cup in 2030. Spain is bidding with neighbors Portugal and Morocco, and possibly also Ukraine.
Francos said Rubiales had damaged the country’s image as it tried to win support for hosting the World Cup.
FIFA postponed the launch of the 2030 bid competition last June, but aimed to make a decision late next year.
The Spanish-led bid is currently favored over the South American quadruple plan that includes Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and 1930 World Cup hosts Uruguay. Despite speculation about a possible bid from Saudi Arabia, the 2034 edition is seen as a more likely target for the oil-rich kingdom.
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup