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The Spanish federation president criticised for his antics at Sunday’s World Cup final has apologised for kissing one of the team’s players, saying his behaviour “seems like it has caused a commotion”.
Luis Rubiales, who is also a member of UEFA’s ruling executive committee and a vice-president of European football’s governing body, issued a video statement on Monday after he was pictured kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips during Sunday’s medal ceremony in Sydney, after Spain had beaten England 1-0 in the final.
Footage has also emerged of Rubiales kissing goalscorer Olga Carmona, and of him celebrating Spain’s win in the stadium’s VIP area by grabbing his crotch.
Rubiales’ behaviour in Australia was described as “unacceptable” by Spain’s acting culture and sports minister Miquel Iceta. The minister called on Rubiales to explain his actions and apologise.
Rubiales’ statement focused on the Hermoso kiss and did not reference his behaviour in the VIP box, where he was stood alongside Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter Sofia.
“There is something I regret, and it was what happened between me and a player, with whom I have a fantastic relationship, just like with the others, where I have certainly made a mistake. I have to admit it,” Rubiales said in his video address.
“In that moment of absolute exultation, without any bad intentions or bad faith, well… that happened. I believe it happened in a very spontaneous way, which I repeat had no bad intentions from either side.
“From that point on, it wasn’t interpreted that way as we carried on as normal, naturally, and again with no ill will between us.
“But outside of that it seems like it has caused a commotion as it seemed to do damage, so I want to apologise for it, I don’t ask for anything else.”
Rubiales’ actions come less than a year after a mutiny by 15 Spain players, who withdrew their services reportedly due to discontent with a number of aspects of the national team set-up, including the strictness of coach Jorge Vilda.
The federation refused to budge in response to the players’ complaints, with a statement saying those involved would only be able to return to the national team “if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness”.
Neither Hermoso nor Carmona were among the 15. Hermoso can be heard in a social media post that she “didn’t like” the kiss from Rubiales, but then later released a statement via the federation saying it was a mutual gesture which was “spontaneous”.
World players’ union FIFPRO said: “It is deeply lamentable that such a special moment for the players of the Spain national team that was taking place before a global television audience should be stained by the inappropriate conduct of an individual in a role carrying so much responsibility.
“Uninitiated and uninvited physical gestures towards players are not appropriate or acceptable in any context. This is especially true when players are put in a position of vulnerability because a physical approach or gesture is initiated by a person who holds power over them.”
UEFA has declined to comment.
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