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Spain soccer outcast Rubiales facing trial for unwanted kiss at Women's World Cup

Soccer Spain Rubiales
Posted at 7:19 AM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 09:19:19-05

MADRID (AP) — After sullying his nation's Women's World Cup victory, former Spanish soccer president Luis Rubiales will face trial for kissing forward Jenni Hermoso without her consent at the final.

Investigative judge Francisco de Jorge ruled on Thursday that Rubiales’ kiss was “unconsented and carried out unilaterally and in a surprising fashion,” the court said.

State prosecutors accused Rubiales of sexual assault and for allegedly trying to coerce Hermoso to publicly support him in the public backlash against him.

Despite initially claiming he was the victim of a campaign led by “false feminists,” Rubiales eventually resigned from his post for his behavior in August during the World Cup final awards ceremony in Sydney. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The judge also ruled that along with Rubiales, former Spain coach Jorge Vilda, sports director of Spain’s men’s team Albert Luque, and the federation former head of marketing Rubén Rivera should be tried for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to defend Rubiales, a step she refused to take.

The trial date will be determined.

Hermoso testified before the investigative judge this month. The 33-year-old forward, Spain's all-time leading scorer who plays in the Mexican league, has been widely supported in the country. The kiss scandal has many hoping it will spur a reckoning with sexism in Spanish sports.

Based on a sexual consent law passed in 2022, Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if found guilty, according to the prosecutors’ office in Madrid. The new law eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault,” sanctioning any unconsented sexual act.

The 46-year-old Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture near to Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofia during the celebrations of Spain’s victory, immediately became a national embarrassment.

Hermoso and her teammates refused to keep playing as long as he was in charge and returned to the team only weeks later when the government mediated an agreement by the federation interim president to overhaul its protocols and give more support to its women’s side. That included the elimination of the term “women’s” from the official team name.

The judge found sufficient evidence to also believe Rubiales unsuccessfully pressured Hermoso to appear in a video he produced and published while public outroar grew against him. The judge said there was also reason to believe Vilda likewise pressured Hermoso’s brother. Luque and marketing head Rivera were also involved in the alleged attempt to coerce her support of her disgraced boss, according to the judge.

FIFA banned Rubiales for three years until after the men’s 2026 World Cup. His ban will expire before the next women’s tournament in 2027. Spain's sports authority also ruled him unfit to hold a post in sports management for three years.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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