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FIFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Spain's soccer chief after World Cup kiss

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the head of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales. Rubiales is seen here at a reception for the Spanish team on Tuesday in Madrid, after Spain won the Women's World Cup on Sunday.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez
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Getty Images
FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the head of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales. Rubiales is seen here at a reception for the Spanish team on Tuesday in Madrid, after Spain won the Women's World Cup on Sunday.

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Luis Rubiales, the head of Spain's soccer federation, after he kissed player Jennifer Hermoso on the mouth during the Women's World Cup medal ceremony.

In a statement Thursday, soccer's global governing body stated simply that "events that occurred during the final" on Sunday may constitute violations by Rubiales to FIFA's Disciplinary Code.

The kiss, broadcast live around the world,appeared forced by Rubiales, igniting widespread criticism and calls for his dismissal. Following Spain's win over England, Rubiales also made crotch-grabbing gestures in a dignitaries' box a few feet away from the queen of Spain, and tightly hugged many of the players, lifting them off the ground.

In Spain, the president of country's High Council of Sport said on Wednesday that the council would take action against Rubiales if Spain's soccer federation, RFEF, did not do so urgently.

The federation has called an emergency meeting for Friday, and referring to events during the Cup final, it noted that its internal proceedings are public when they involve integrity issues.

Hermoso spoke through her union, Futpro, which she said is "taking charge of defending my interests and being the interlocutors on this matter" along with her agency TMJ.

Rubiales' conduct following Spain's win has been roundly criticized, including by Spain's prime minister and unions representing the team's players. Here Rubiales is seen carrying Spain's Athenea del Castillo Beivide.
David Gray / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Rubiales' conduct following Spain's win has been roundly criticized, including by Spain's prime minister and unions representing the team's players. Here Rubiales is seen carrying Spain's Athenea del Castillo Beivide.

Futpro, which represents women soccer players in Spain, expressed "firm and resounding condemnation of behaviors that violate the dignity of women."

"From our association we ask the Royal Spanish Football Federation to implement the necessary protocols, ensure the rights of our players and adopt exemplary measures. It is essential that our team, the current world champion, is always represented by figures who project values ​​of equality and respect in all areas," it said in a statement.

"We also call on the Higher Sports Council so that, within its powers, it actively supports and promotes prevention and intervention in the face of sexual harassment or abuse, machismo and sexism," Futpro concluded.

There had previously been a disconnect between what Hermoso had expressed just after the game, and what the federation later released in a statement it attributed to her.

In a livestream from the locker room following the match, Hermoso said of Rubiales' kiss: "I didn't like it." As she is apparently shown a video or photo of the kiss, she says, "What do I do? Look at me, look at me." Later RFEF released a statement it said was from Hermoso in which she downplayed the events' severity calling it "a mutual gesture," though Spanish news site Relevo reported that Hermoso did not actually write or say the statement.

FIFA says the events involving Rubiales may constitute violations to its Disciplinary Code, pointing to paragraphs that address offensive behavior and the obligation to comply with FIFA's rules and principles of fair play. It says a person may be subject to discipline for, among other things, violating the basic rules of decent conduct; using offensive gestures, signs or language; or behaving in a way that brings the sport of soccer and/or FIFA into disrepute.

On Tuesday, Spain's acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, rebuked Rubiales: "It was an unacceptable gesture and Mr. Rubiales' apologies are not enough."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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