Jorge Vilda has criticized Luis Rubiales’ behavior. Marc Atkins/Getty Images CNN —
Spain’s Women’s World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda on Saturday has criticized the “inappropriate” behavior of suspended football federation president Luis Rubiales, whose forced kiss to player Jennifer Hermoso at the World Cup final last Sunday caused a wave of indignation in world football.
“I am deeply sorry that the victory of Spanish women’s football has been harmed by the inappropriate behavior that our until now top leader, Luis Rubiales, has carried out and that he himself has recognized,” Vilda said on Saturday in a statement widely shared by Spanish media.
It was a week ago that the incident – seen by millions of viewers around the world – happened, when Hermoso had collected her medal after winning the Women’s World Cup.
Rubiales’ subsequent refusal to resign – even while facing fierce criticism – has triggered a crisis in Spanish soccer, with world governing body FIFA suspending him for 90 days and every player and coach in Spain’s women’s team resigning en masse, except for head coach Vilda.
Rubiales says the kiss was consensual, and the federation has released two statements defending him, one of which has since been deleted, threatening legal action against Hermoso and accusing her of spreading “lies.”
Hermoso said the kiss was unwanted and she and the entire World Cup-winning squad have refused to play for the national team while Rubiales remains president.
“I did not like this incident,” she wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist out of place act without any consent on my part.”
‘With you, Jenni’
As the row dragged on into the weekend, several soccer teams, both male and female, displayed their support for Hermoso at their matches – some held shirts, some wore wristbands, some unfurled banners.
AC Milan and Atletico Madrid players paid tribute to Hermoso at the pre-season Women’s Cup final in Madrid, standing together holding a banner reading “With You Jennifer Hermoso” as the Spanish star watched the game from the stands.
Atletico Madrid show its support for Hermoso. Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
In the US, the Houston Dash displayed a banner reading “Contigo Jenni,” which translates to “With you, Jenni,” and wore white wristbands with the same message written on it during their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game.
Players from the KS Current, Orlando Pride and San Diego Wave – including Alex Morgan – wore similar wristbands.
It was a visual representation of the global solidarity which has marked women’s soccer this week.
San Diego Wave shows support for Jenni Hermoso. Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Every member of Spain’s women’s coaching staff, except for Vilda, resigned on Saturday, releasing a joint statement saying that Rubiales’ explanation “does not reflect in any way what was felt by Jenni Hermoso, who has expressly said that she felt she was the “victim of aggression.”“
The coaches also said that they were instructed to attend the assembly where Rubiales announced his intention to stay in his post and that “various women members of the coaching staff were required to sit in the front row” in an effort to give the impression that they supported the embattled president.
Their collective resignation was preceded by that of 23 members of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad, including Hermoso, and nearly 50 other professional female soccer players who said they would not play for the national team again until Rubiales was removed from his position. La Roja’s next fixture is less than a month away on September 22.
That solidarity extended into men’s soccer too with Cadiz and Sevilla both showing their support for Hermoso at their respective matches on Saturday, while Spanish soccer icon Xavi condemned Rubiales’ behavior.
Cadiz placed a banner that read “Todos Somos Jenni (We are all Jenni)” on the pitch, a photo of which was later re-posted on X by Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Díaz, who has called for Rubiales to resign.
Meanwhile, Sevilla’s players wore t-shirts with the hashtag “SeAcabó,” meaning “It’s Over,” a reference to Rubiales’ tenure at the federation.
Players of Sevilla wear t-shirts in support for Jennifer Hermoso. Fran Santiago/Getty Images
Barcelona manager Xavi said that he “condemned the behavior” of Rubiales and gave his “unconditional support to Jennifer Hermoso and the players” on Saturday, according to Reuters.
“I regret that people aren’t talking about the historic achievement of winning the World Cup,” he added.