There have been yet more twists in the controversy that surrounds Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales, with fresh footage from the Women’s World Cup final disapproving claims Jenni Hermoso lifted him up.
At a heated assembly meeting on Friday, the 46-year-old football chief repeatedly refused to resign over his forced kiss on Hermoso and even described it as a ‘simple peck’.
Shortly afterwards, the Spanish FA then claimed it was Hermoso who had instigated the clinch and lifted up Rubiales during the presentation ceremony, producing several photographs and branding her claims ‘lies’.
That statement, in which the Spanish football federation threatened to sue Hermoso, was later deleted but it prompted a furious backlash from around the world, while FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales.
Since his animated speech on Friday, Rubiales has been lying low but on Monday Spanish prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into whether the incident amounts to a crime of sexual assault while the Spanish football federation’s regional leaders urged him to resign.
Now claims that the kiss was ‘mutual’ appear to have been rubbished by a fresh, wide-angle video of the presentation which contradicts Rubiales and the Spanish FA’s interpretation of what happened.
In the footage, it is Rubiales who appears to lift his feet off the ground and effectively jump up into Hermoso’s arms, with the forward herself remaining largely motionless.
In one of the descriptions accompanying the photos the RFEF provided, it was claimed that Rubiales had to hold on to Hermoso ‘so as not to fall’ and that ‘it is evident that the arching of the player’s body corresponds to the lifting force of Mr President’.
Yet the new footage shows Rubiales lifting himself off the ground on his own accord, with Hermoso only reacting after the Spanish chief’s feet have left the floor.
In another astonishing chapter of the story, UEFA were forced to reject a request from Rubiales’ number two to suspend Spanish clubs and the national team from European competitions – a threat the RFEF hoped would prompt the Spanish government to back off.
UEFA have been rather quiet over the Rubiales matter given he is still serving as vice-president of the organisation and earning around £214,000-a-year for the role but FIFA’s suspension covers the European body too, meaning he will not be able to attend events, meetings or votes – including Thursday’s Champions League draw.
While Rubiales has not resigned as president of the Spanish football federation, his interim replacement, Pedro Rocha, is looking to try and sort out the mess that has been created and held another extraordinary general meeting on Monday in which a restructuring of the RFEF was demanded by local football association bodies.
As testament to the structural changes that could be coming, the BBC are reporting that Rocha is now exploring options over whether controversial World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda can be sacked.
Rubiales stood by Vilda – who applauded throughout the president’s speech on Friday – last year when 15 players criticised his management and refused to play under him. Only three of those ended up going to the World Cup and his reign has been heavily criticised.
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