The coach of the Spain men’s national soccer team, Luis de la Fuente, has asked for forgiveness for applauding the speech in which Luis Rubiales said he would not resign for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after the Women’s World Cup final.
De la Fuente said on Friday that he made an “inexcusable human error” and that he would not step down from his job. He said he was caught off guard by Rubiales’ speech and that his applause happened in a “situation of maximum stress and tension.”
Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation, has been under fire since he kissed Hermoso, who scored the winning goal for Spain against England in the final in Sydney, Australia, on August 20. He also faced criticism for grabbing his crotch in celebration of the victory while standing near Spain’s Queen Letizia and her daughter Sofia.
Rubiales has claimed that Hermoso consented to his kiss and that he was the victim of a smear campaign from “false feminists” who wanted to damage his reputation and that of Spanish soccer. He has refused to resign from his position despite calls from FIFA, UEFA, players, coaches, fans, and politicians.
FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, provisionally suspended Rubiales for 90 days a day after he delivered his defiant speech at an emergency general assembly of the federation on August 25. He arranged for Pedro Rocha, a vice president of the federation, to be his interim successor.
Hermoso has denied that she agreed to Rubiales’ kiss and said she felt “humiliated” and “disrespected” by his action. She said she only wanted to celebrate with her teammates and receive her medal. She has also rejected Rubiales’ apology, which she said was not sincere.
Table of Contents
Football players mutiny against Rubiales
58 players, including all 23 World Cup winners for Spain, have said they won’t represent their country until Rubiales leaves. They have accused him of undermining their historic achievement and disrespecting women’s soccer and women’s rights.
De la Fuente, who led Spain to win the men’s European Under-21 Championship in June, said he was sorry for supporting Rubiales and that he was working to do more for equality. He said he did not think he had to resign because he had a good relationship with the players and the staff.
“I don’t think I have to resign, I think I have to ask for forgiveness,” De la Fuente said in Madrid in his first public appearance since the scandal broke out. “I made a human error. It was inexcusable.”
He added: “If I could go back in time, I would not do that again. Equality requires more effort from all of us. Me too. And I am working on that.”
De la Fuente said he was surprised by Rubiales’ speech and that he expected him to announce his resignation, as was widely reported in local media. He said he clapped several times because he was nervous and did not know how to react.
“I was convinced that he was going to resign,” De la Fuente said. “I was in a situation of maximum stress and tension. I didn’t know what to do. I clapped without thinking.”
He also said he issued a statement condemning Rubiales’ behavior hours after FIFA suspended him. He said he had spoken with some of the women’s players and expressed his solidarity with them.
“Harsh criticism has been heaped upon me, and it is completely justified,” De la Fuente said. “I’m sorry and I apologize for it.”
He also said he had the backing of Rocha, who has taken over as the interim president of the federation. He said Rocha had told him that he trusted him and that he wanted him to continue as the coach of the men’s team.
De la Fuente is preparing for Spain’s World Cup qualifying matches against Sweden and Georgia in September. He said he hoped to have the support of the fans and the media.
“I hope this does not have a negative impact on Spanish soccer or our team’s performance,” De la Fuente said. “I hope we can focus on our sporting goals and make our country proud.”