Spain made history at the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney, Australia on Sunday, beating England 1-0 to win the cup for the first time. La Roja triumphed against the reigning European champion and pre-match favourite despite the disputes and divisions that clouded the national team throughout the tournament.
But the historic win was sidelined by controversies broiling at the finals. The president of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales, came under fire after he kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s victory. After being given her medal by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, Hermoso was given a hug by Rubiales, who lifted her off her feet. A brief conversation between the pair followed before Mr Rubiales grabbed Hermoso around her back and kissed her on the lips.
Hermoso said on a live stream afterwards she “did not enjoy that”. In comments later provided to media, she clarified her position, saying it was a “natural gesture of affection” – but outrage quickly spread, with football supporters accusing Rubiales of inappropriate behaviour. The former England international Casey Stoney tweeted: “Would he kiss a male player like this? This is NOT ok.”
Rubiales dismissed the criticism, telling Radio Marca that it was merely “two people having a minor show of affection” and that he will not take notice of “idiocy,” referencing those outraged by his behaviour.
Spain’s victory comes at a very tumultuous time for their women’s football team – on an eventful evening, the federation also revealed the captain and goalscorer, Olga Carmona, only discovered her father had passed away after the match.
A player mutiny also saw 15 players walk out on the national team in the wake of their qualification for the World Cup last year. The players wrote to the Spanish Federation (RFEF) last October to raise concerns about Vilda’s management style and other issues behind the scenes. Only three players – Aitana Bonmati, Mariona Caldentey, and Ona Batlle – returned, while stars including Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro, and Claudia Pina have continued their boycott. Vilda said he had no intentions of stepping down after Sunday night’s final. When the mutiny almost cost him his job, Rubiales had come out in support of Vilda, whose father, Ángel, is the head of the federation’s women’s department.
These simultaneous incidents have prompted social media users to question the treatment of these women football players by the men in power. Just ahead of the final match, FIFA Chief Infantino received wide criticism for saying women footballers must “pick the right battles” in the fight for equal pay in the World Cup. The man who holds the most powerful position in the world of football said women “have the power to convince us men what we have to do” – appearing to place the responsibility for action at their feet.