In a shocking speech, Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales has refused to resign as the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation on Friday, bringing more shocking developments in a turbulent week which started as his forced kiss on Jennifer Hermoso overshadowed Spain's first-ever Women's World Cup title.
Rubiales' exit was expected to be made official at the extraordinary general assembly meeting on Friday, a meeting that was called late Tuesday to address the incident. A crisis meeting was held in Madrid on Wednesday to discuss his successor, according to ESPN, and Pedro Rocha, head of the Extremadura football federation had been expected to be handed the job. Instead Rubiales surprised everybody when he took to the podium.
"I'm not going to resign, I'm not going to resign, I'm NOT going to resign, I'm NOT going to resign, I'm not going to resign."
In his fiery speech, Rubiales not only refused to step aside but offered embattled coach Jorge Vilda the promise of a new four-year contract contract despite the protracted dispute between Vilda and his players.
"You deserve it, Jorge, we've gone through a lot, a lot. I've always said you were one of the best managers in the world in women's football. Sincerely, I tell you you're the best."
Rubiales' inappropriate behavior happened as Hermoso collected her winners' medal in Sydney, Australia on Sunday and kicked off a days-long demand for his removal. The ex-president initially described criticism as "idiocy" but issued an apology on Monday that several described as insufficient. He then faced multiple calls to resign from soccer players and politicians alike, as well as a handful of clubs in Spain.
In defending himself, Rubiales referred to attacks against him as "false feminism," and described the kiss that he forced on Hermoso as "a peck," calling it "spontaneous, mutual and consensual." Speaking from the podium to an audience which applauded his decision, Rubiales claimed he "kissed Jenni as if she were his daughter."
"The kiss, the peck. I want to give my explanation too," Rubiales continued. "Of course, whoever sees the video, in front of millions of people, on television, in front of my family, in front of my daughters, the desire I had with that kiss is the same as the one I would give to one of my daughters."
His refusal to depart comes amidst an ongoing protest of the federation and women's national team head coach Jorge Vilda. Fifteen players refused to be called up by the national team in Sept. 2022, citing an unprofessional and toxic culture fostered by the federation and the coaching staff. The federation generally disregarded the claims as the Women's World Cup approached and eight eventually made themselves available for the tournament after some concessions were made, and three were included on the roster. Seven players, including Mapi Leon, are still protesting because they feel the federation has not made enough change to address their concerns.
In the leadup to his expected resignation, the Spanish government had threatened to get involved in removing him if he would not resign. Now the question becomes what action will be forthcoming after this shocking turn of events.
A retired player, Rubiales was elected president of the federation in 2018 after a seven-year stint as the president of the Association of Spanish Footballers.