Spanish soccer head Luis Rubiales resigns following boorish behavior

Luis Rubiales resigned two weeks after insisting he wouldn’t step down over boorish behavior at the World Cup final that included grabbing his crotch and kissing a Spain player without her consent.

Rubiales made a post in Spanish on X on Sunday announcing his departure from his role as head of the Spanish soccer federation. He did not apologize for the incident.

“I will defend my honor. I will defend my innocence,” he said. “I have faith in the future. I have faith in the truth.”

In an attached statement, he said that after FIFA suspended him last month, he knew he had to step down. He also resigned as the vicerigh president of UEFA, the governing body of European soccer.

“It is evident that I cannot return to my duties,” he said. “Insisting on waiting and hoping to hold on is not going to contribute to anything positive neither for the Spanish Federation nor for Spanish football. Among other things, because the powers that be prevent my return.”

He said the incident was blown out of proportion and that he is stepping away to clear the name of football in Europe as the continent hopes to host the 2030 World Cup and to relieve the burden placed on his loved ones.

“My daughters, my family and the people that love me have suffered the effects of excessive persecution and many falsehoods,” he said, “but also it is certain that in the public more and more every day, the truth is being imposed.”

Piers Morgan also posted on the social media site that the former president shared the news with him in an interview, which will air this week.

“It’s a raw, powerful, emotional conversation about THAT kiss, and crotch grab, which have made him the world’s most infamous man,” Morgan said.

Despite his earlier defiance, it was clear Rubiales remaining as head of Spain’s soccer federation was untenable. Already under intense criticism for taking attention away from the players after they’d won their country’s first World Cup title, Rubiales caused additional furor by claiming Jenni Hermoso had not only consented to his kiss but initiated it.

Hermoso issued a statement later that day disputing that, saying she felt as if she’d been assaulted. She and her World Cup teammates also said they would not play again “until the team’s leaders resign,” jeopardizing Spain’s chances of qualifying for its first-ever Olympics.

Spain is scheduled to play Sweden on Sept. 21 in the Nations League, which is being used to determine the two European teams that will join host France at next year’s Paris Olympics. Should Spain have to boycott the game, or lose to Sweden with an inexperienced team, it would all but end any hope it has of making it to the Paris Games next summer.

The outrage that Rubiales, the federation’s president since 2018, had forced the players into such a position was immediate and widespread. U.S. co-captain Alex Morgan and Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani took to social media to call for change, as did England’s Alex Greenwood.

Borja Iglesias, a star on the men’s team, said he would not play for Spain until Rubiales was gone. Pau Gasol, who is considered Spain’s greatest basketball player and was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, also expressed support for Hermoso and her teammates.

Rubiales’ departure caps yet another ugly chapter for the World Cup champions. Last September, 15 of Spain’s top players expressed concerns to the federation about the environment created by longtime coach Jorge Vilda. The federation reacted angrily, blackballing the women and saying they needed to apologize before they could return.

Only three of the 15 were on the World Cup, along with Hermoso and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas. Hermoso and Putellas weren’t part of the 15, but both expressed support for their teammates and their concerns.

Hermoso referenced those complaints in her letter Friday, saying Rubiales’ behavior was just one more indignity the players had experienced.

Rubiales was seen grabbing his crotch while standing next to the queen of Spain and her teenaged daughter after the team beat England to win the World Cup. He then grabbed Hermoso by the face and kissed her on the medals podium, and later said in the locker room he was going to marry Spain’s all-time leading scorer.

Hermoso said the federation later tried to get her to issue a statement of support, and was reaching out to her family and friends to get in touch with her.

“I want to reiterate that I did not like what happened,” Hermoso said in her statement. “I felt vulnerable and was a victim of assault, what happened was sexist, impulsive, out of place, and non-consensual.”

Rubiales remains the subject of disciplinary proceedings by FIFA. It’s not clear what, if any, impact his departure will have on his position as a vice president with UEFA. Europe’s governing body has been conspicuously silent about Rubiales and the problems he created for Spain.

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