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Luis Rubiales Shows The Whole World Spain’s Entire Ass

RFEF president Luis Rubiales pumps his fists in celebration during the 2023 Women's World Cup
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The reports going around yesterday had it that Luis Rubiales, the disgraced and disgraceful Spain soccer federation (RFEF) president last seen forcibly kissing women's national team star Jenni Hermoso on the mouth during the team's World Cup medal ceremony and then doing everything possible to make it even worse, would resign his position on Friday, at the organization's emergency assembly. Well, he didn't. He extremely did not.

First, a recap. Rubiales is a pig and a moron; this was established long before the kiss. In 2016 Tamara Ramos, then a staffer for Spain's players' union, went public with accusations that Rubiales had, among other things, made lewd and inappropriate comments to her in professional settings, such as asking what color underwear she was wearing, and, "In front of everyone he, with the sarcasm he has of laughing, told me 'Come see, you have come here to put on your knee pads.'" Last year, when 15 players on the women's national team sent a letter to the RFEF protesting an unprofessional environment under manager and nepo-baby mediocrity Jorge Vilda, Rubiales is who directed the RFEF's sneeringly hostile and dismissive response, and its doubling down on the worthless Vilda. The very day of the kiss incident, Rubiales had already been spotted in the stands, pumping his crotch with his hand while celebrating Spain's performance, standing a few feet from Spain's queen and her 16-year-old daughter. By the time he kissed Hermoso, he'd already drawn the world's attention for the leering, overfamiliar hugs he'd given each preceding medal recipient on the stage.

The embarrassment didn't end there, not by a long shot. In the locker room afterward, as he was springing a surprise Ibiza trip on Spain's players, he made a crack about inviting them there to celebrate "the wedding of Jenni and Luis Rubiales." When first asked about the kiss's public blowback, Rubiales attributed the criticism to "idiots." His RFEF released a statement, purportedly from Hermoso herself, defending the kiss as "a totally spontaneous mutual gesture due to the immense joy of winning a World Cup," and "a natural gesture of affection and gratitude" and then again as "a gesture of friendship and gratitude," claiming she and Rubiales "have a great relationship, his behavior towards all of us has been outstanding," and demanding that everybody stop talking about it immediately. Only that statement turns out to have been issued without the participation of Hermoso herself, who evidently said none of those things. When Rubiales did finally get around to issuing an apology video, reporters learned that he'd first begged Hermoso to appear in it with him, even daring to ask that she do so on behalf of his daughters.

By Thursday evening, even Spain's prime minister Pedro Sánchez had joined the chorus of condemnations, all but explicitly calling for Rubiales to resign. "I also believe that the apologies that Mr. Rubiales has given are not enough," he told a press conference. "I even believe that they are not adequate and that therefore he has to continue taking steps."

This brings us, more or less, to Friday's breathtakingly deranged RFEF assembly, at which Rubiales ... fucking hell, where even to begin with this guy. Well, let's see. He repeatedly refused to resign, for one thing, at one point roaring it several times in a row like he's in friggin' The Wolf of Wall Street. He also offered Vilda a new four-year contract paying him a higher salary than that of literally any woman soccer player in the world. That is not even the half of it.

Rubiales named critics—all women—who have described the kiss as an assault, and vowed legal action against them. He called the kiss "spontaneous, mutual, and consensual"—you might notice this harmonizes with the fake Hermoso statement—and even blamed it on Hermoso, saying "She was the one who lifted me up and brought me closer to her body. And I said to her, 'A little bit?' and she said, 'OK.'" He called the reaction to the kiss a "social assassination" and said his critics are trying to kill him.

Rubiales also wanted everybody to know that the kiss was not sexual—"The desire I could have for that kiss to Jenni was exactly the same as I could have kissing my daughters. No more, no less"—as if mere platonic feelings would make it perfectly acceptable to grab a subordinate by the face and kiss her on the mouth in an extraordinarily public setting. Or any other setting. (Alternatively, maybe he was confessing that he gets a sexual thrill from kissing his own daughters.) Speaking of his daughters! Rubiales wanted them to know that they "are the real feminists, not those fake feminists out there."

It now seems very likely that the midweek rumors of Rubiales's impending resignation originated with none other than the RFEF and Rubiales himself, as a ploy to setup Friday's theatrics and play up his heroic defiance. For the person or people shameless and cynical enough to write and issue a fake public statement from the very player Rubiales kissed against her will in front of the whole world, this would be next to nothing.

Nearly as appalling as Rubiales's lunatic tirade was the sight of Vilda and men's national team manager Luis de la Fuente in the audience, applauding this dogshit. They aren't alone among powerful men and institutions in Spanish soccer showing their whole asses today: As of this writing, Luis Enrique, former men's national team coach and current boss at Paris Saint-Germain, has spoken out in Rubiales's defense, after the speech; so has Joan Soteras, head of the Catalan Football Federation (FCF). FC Barcelona, which reportedly has benefited from Rubiales's help in sorting out its myriad Financial Fair Play problems, issued a disgracefully weak statement, denouncing Rubiales's behavior at the World Cup but crediting him, ridiculously, with having "admitted it was an error" and apologizing. (Casting Barcelona in an even worse light, RCD Espanyol, Barça's relegated crosstown rival, had the bare-minimal awareness and self-respect to condemn both Rubiales's World Cup behavior and his shameful display at the RFEF assembly, and to call for his immediate dismissal.)

Meanwhile, players themselves are reacting with horror, outrage, and unity. Barça and national-team star Alexia Putellas, who withheld her signature from the 2022 protest letter but was publicly supportive of it, called Friday's events "unacceptable" on Twitter and threw her support behind Hermoso. Mapi León, one of the 15 signatories to the protest letter who kept up her refusal to join the national team all through the World Cup, tweeted an elegant told-you-so. Misa Rodríguez, goalkeeper for the Spain women's national team and Real Madrid, tweeted in support of Hermoso and called out those who applauded Rubiales's rant. Real Betis men's players Borja Iglesias and Héctor Bellerín issued public statements: Iglesias withdrawing from national-team participation, Bellerín referring to Rubiales as a narcissist and calling out his victim-blaming. As of this writing, the (short) list of Spain men's players who've expressed support for Hermoso or condemnation of Rubiales includes former national team (and Manchester United) goalkeeper David de Gea and Barcelona's captain Sergi Roberto. For updates on the ever-growing list of current and former women's soccer players expressing their indignation, check out this Twitter account.

What's next? The Spanish publication Relevo reports that Spain's Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, will bring Rubiales's behavior and the complaints against him before Spain's Administrative Court of Sports (TAD), which has the power to impose penalties up to and including years-long bans from holding any official soccer position in Spain. Friday's performance, and the renewed firestorm of international scorn and disgust it is now bringing down on the RFEF and Spanish soccer culture more broadly, can do nothing to help Rubiales's case. Whether he resigns or not, the RFEF seems very likely to have a new president rather sooner than he'd like it.

Awful and repellent as Rubiales's speech was, this may well turn out to have been a positive development overall, or at least the lesser of some number of evils. In combination with the World Cup win, a hasty and quiet resignation by Rubiales risked making Spain's national soccer infrastructure and culture look healthier and more progressive than they actually are, and may have allowed the media and public to metabolize this whole sequence of events as merely the story of a single monstrous indiscretion—attributable perhaps to a joyful and tragically over-voluptuous Latinate heart—followed by an appropriately chastened and modern response. Now, with Rubiales having had nearly a week to formulate his next move, and with that next move having been, in total, a great big chesty fuck-you to decency and accountability, no one in the world can even halfway credibly pretend not to see the situation for what it is.

This is the kind of guy Spain's sporting authorities want, and have wanted, running the show. Not just some jovial boob with, like, an overgrown sense of romance or whatever, but a raging malignant macho pig downright thrilled for the opportunity to demonstrate his absolute unaccountability to women, to standards of behavior, to anything. Precisely the kind of guy, that is, who would grip an unwitting subordinate by the face and kiss her on the mouth during the moment of her greatest professional triumph. Moreover he enjoys vocal and/or passive support from around the sport's corridors of power, in the form of other chesty dickheads all too happy to claim satisfaction from his obviously insincere performance of contrition, wherever they are not proudly applauding his very sincere performance of impunity and grievance.

This is what Spain's players were trying to bring to the world's attention, a great big system of disrespect, unprofessionalism, and gross incompetence, which includes but is far from limited to one manager or federation president. In the work of doing so and in absolutely no other sense, Rubiales now turns out to have been perhaps their single greatest ally.

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