(CNN) — Luis Rubiales on Sunday resigned from his position as president of the Spanish soccer federation following weeks of fierce criticism over his unwanted kiss with Women’s World Cup winner Jennifer Hermoso.
“Today, I notified the interim president at 930 pm, Mr. Pedro Rocha, that I have resigned as President of RFEF,” Rubiales said in a letter posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I have also let him know that I have also resigned my position in UEFA so that my Vice-presidency position can be filled.”
“To insist on waiting around,” he continued, “and holding onto that won’t contribute anything positive, neither to the Federation nor to Spanish football. Among other things, because the powers that be will prevent my return.”
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed that Rubiales had presented his resignation as chief of the Spanish football association as well as vice president of UEFA.
“The Royal Spanish Football Federation confirms that Luis M. Rubiales Béjar has presented his resignation tonight,” RFEF said in a statement. “This has been made known to the federative entity through a letter to Pedro Rocha Junco. In addition, he also resigns from his position as vice president of UEFA.”
The federation’s board of directors will now call an election to find a successor.
Rubiales vowed to clear his name against what he called “excessive persecution.”
“I have faith in the truth and I will do everything when it’s in my hands so that it prevails,” he wrote. “My daughters, my family and the people that love me have suffered the effects of an excessive persecution, as well as many falsehoods, but it’s also true that in the street, every day more, the truth is being imposed.”
Rubiales’ unwanted kiss on Hermoso after the Spanish team’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final on August 20 sparked condemnation in Spain and across the world. The 46-year-old previously apologized and described the kiss as “mutual” – a claim Hermoso denied, saying she did not consent and was not respected.
The Spaniard was provisionally suspended by global governing body FIFA for 90 days while a disciplinary investigation takes place. Pedro Rocha stepped into the role in the interim.
On Sunday, Spanish authorities were quick to react to Rubiales’ resignation.
The Spanish minister of equality, Irene Montero, reacted on X with two words: “It’s over.”
Yolanda Díaz, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, also wrote on the platform, “The feminist country is advancing faster and faster. The transformation and improvement of our lives is inevitable. We are with you, Jenni, and with all women.”
Hours after Rubiales’ announcement, Hermoso appeared in Mexico as the team she plays for, CF Pachuca Femenil, honored the star in her first match since the World Cup victory.
She was greeted by the crowd with a rousing ovation ahead of the game, with a huge mural of her hanging in the stadium. Hermoso then put the World Cup medal around her neck and waved to the crowd.
“I think what (Rubiales) did was wrong and all the attention that they should have as champions went directly to him, and I think it’s right that he was removed from his position,” one fan at the match, Jennifer, told CNN en Español.
A reckoning for Spanish soccer
The scandal involving Rubiales triggered a crisis in Spanish soccer, with the government pushing for Rubiales to resign and RFEF last week removing World Cup-winning manager Jorge Vilda from his role.
Vilda had been filmed seeming to inappropriately touch a female staff member during the Women’s World Cup Final. He was replaced by Montse Tomé, the first woman in Spanish national team history to hold the position.
Public outcry to the unwanted kiss and Rubiales’ staunch defense of it has come from every sphere of Spanish society, including from politicians and sports stars. The incident also sparked a conversation about the prevalence of “macho culture” in Spain, a county that has witnessed massive protests against sexual violence and sexism in the past years.
The coaches of Spain’s women’s team resigned en masse and more than 80 Spanish soccer players put their name on a statement supporting Hermoso, saying they would not return to the national team “if the current leaders continue” in their posts.
Rubiales also sparked ire for his insistence that the kiss was consensual, despite Hermoso’s denials. “I did not like this incident,” Hermoso wrote in a statement about the kiss on X. “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist out of place act without any consent on my part.”
The federation then released two statements defending him, one of which has since been deleted, threatening legal action against Hermoso and accusing her of spreading “lies.”
Rubiales initially refused to stand down over the incident, repeating that he “will not resign” several times in an almost 30-minute speech at the federation’s general assembly, during which he also spoke of “unjust” campaigns and “fake feminism.”
However, his position became increasingly untenable, despite support from the federation, as players resigned and he was engulfed in a wave of criticism from the sporting world and Spanish politicians.
All 23 members of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad, including Hermoso, and nearly 50 other professional female soccer players said they would not play for the national team again until Rubiales was removed. The national team’s next fixture is on September 22.
As the row dragged on, several soccer teams, both male and female, displayed their support for Hermoso at their matches – some held shirts, some wore wristbands, and some unfurled banners.
Pressure then mounted on Monday as all 19 regional presidents of Spain’s soccer federation called for Rubiales to resign following an emergency meeting, hours after Spanish prosecutors announced that an investigation that could end in sexual aggression charges against Rubiales had been opened.
On Friday, the Spanish national prosecutor filed a complaint against Rubiales “for the crimes of sexual assault and coercion against Jennifer Hermoso,” according to a prosecutor’s statement, after Hermoso filed an official complaint with prosecutors.
The complaint from the prosecutor’s office – part of the Spanish legal process – paves the way for Spain’s national court to launch a formal investigation into Rubiales and begin gathering evidence, which could lead to possible charges.
In protest against what she called an “inhumane, bloodthirsty hunt” against her son, Rubiales’ mother, Ángeles Béjar, locked herself in a church on Monday and went on a hunger strike in the town of Motril near Grenada, according to media reports.
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