It should have ignited a national celebration, not a cause célèbre. A makeshift Spanish women’s soccer team left opponents strewn across the pitch down under and won the Women’s World Cup on Aug. 20 with a dominating performance that could affect the way the matches are played in the future.

          More than half of the Spanish National Team had opted out of the competition in protest of low pay, a coach whom they deemed unqualified and decades of neglect from the nation’s soccer federation. 

          Choosing to represent her country, but recovering from an injury that limited her to token appearances was Alexia Putellas, the first player to win the European Women’s Player of the Year award and the Golden Ball for women two years in a row.

          But, the team’s supposed limitations proved advantageous in the long run…run…run. Run they did. The team of mostly younger players was the fastest squad in Australia and New Zealand. The others couldn’t keep up with their speed or match their deft dribbling.

          And, though they only beat England 1-0 in the final, several near misses exemplified their constant attacking pressure. And speed – which never goes into a slump – is a defensive asset as well.

          La Roja shocked the soccer world.

          Then, came “The Kiss” that shocked the rest of the world.

          As players passed through a receiving line of worldwide soccer officials, Luis Rubiales,  president of the Spanish football federation, grabbed Jenni Hermoso’s head with both hands and planted a kiss full on her lips.

          Rubiales, who had used one of those hands minutes before to grab his crotch in celebrating the win (as a sign of victory, dominance, masculinity?), claims the kiss was consensual. Hermoso says it was not.

          When she filed a complaint with national prosecutors, they charged Rubiales with assault for the kiss and then coercion for forcing her to initially say it was consensual.

          Sunday after three weeks of public outrage, Rubiales finally resigned, still not acknowledging any wrongdoing, but, instead, citing the adverse effect of the controversy on family members.

          That had already happened. As a sign of support, his mother took sanctuary in a church and announced a hunger strike. Three days later she was taken to a hospital. Her boy made a rare public appearance to visit her.

          At the same time, Rubiales’ uncle said his nephew “needs a social re-education program and re-education in his relationship with women.”

          The uncle then added that his nephew is “obsessed with power, luxury, money and women.” In a later interview, he added that his nephew was a “man with a clear machista  (sexist) tinge.”

          Also in announcing his resignation, as reported by Catalan News, “Rubiales talked to a ‘disproportionate campaign’ and ‘excessive persecution,’ reasons why he stepped down.

          “’I have to look forward, look into the future,’ he added after saying that there are ‘powers in the shadows,’ that will not allow him to return to his position.”

          Yes, indeed, he is the victim here. Not the young woman he grabbed and kissed against her will. (Maybe he should run for office.)

          Rubiales’ had already been suspended 90 days by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer. Still, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) had taken no action against him.

          In fact, after the initial outcry over the assault, Rubiales received cheers and applause from members of the organization when he decried the “false feminism” of the critics.

          Two weeks later, the same RFEF got around to issuing an apology.

          It would have taken a two-thirds vote of the federation to oust him. Opponents of Spanish machismo did not think they had the votes.

          During the interim, Spanish men’s coach Luis de la Fuente apologized for his support at that meeting: “I made a human error. It was inexcusable.”

          A united men’s team sat with their captains at a news conference last week to condemn Rubiales’ action.

          “We want to reject what we consider unacceptable behavior on the part of Mr. Rubiales, who has not lived up to the institution he represents,” captain Álvaro Morata said.

          Professional teams and associations throughout the country also denounced Rubiales.

          But, when Spanish governmental officials called for Rubiales to resign, RFEF petitioned FIFA to claim that even such a suggestion indicated that RFEF was not the independent agency required for membership and thus ALL Spanish teams should be disqualified from competition. FIFA rejected that ploy.

          During the RFEF apology, according to Betevé, a suddenly awakened president Pedro Rocha apologized, “to world football , to institutions such as FIFA and UEFA and to footballers, especially to the players of the Spanish and English national teams and to the fans of all the world for the ‘unacceptable behavior’ of the top representative during the final of the Spanish Federation.”

          Rocha elaborated, “the damage done by Rubiales to football, to sport, to Spanish society and to the set of values that sport transmits, by the former president of the Federation, has been enormous.” 

          But, the federation took no action against Rubiales besides, “providing all the documentary and administrative support to the institutions that have opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales.”

          Prior to resigning, a defiant Rubiales claimed he had evidence of the women players laughing at recordings of The Kiss. I can assure him that they were not laughing with him.

          During my tenure in the educational audio-visual business, I floated among different departments when caught up with production house duties. I got to hear our part-time, college coed clerks laughing at professors and local businessmen haunting the local watering holes. Yeah, they thought they were hilarious.

          RFEF did get around to firing coach Jorge Vilda (after the rest of the coaching staff had resigned in protest).  And 80 Spanish players, including the entire World Cup championship squad, announced that they would not play as long as Rubiales was in charge.

          Now, with new coach Montserrat Tomé at the helm, the world champion Spanish women’s team can settle down to revolutionizing their sport.

          Stephens County Democrats will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in Room 506 of the Morris Business Building at Red River Vo-Tech on West Bois D’Arc.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Unwanted kiss tarnishes victory

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