The Spanish footballer Jenni Hermoso has filed a criminal complaint accusing Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish football federation, of sexual assault over the unsolicited kiss he gave her after the Women’s World Cup final, the Spanish prosecutor’s office has said.
The complaint comes after prosecutors at the country’s top criminal court said they were investigating the incident – in which Rubiales grabbed Hermoso by the head, pulled her towards him and planted a kiss on her lips – amid concerns that there may be grounds for sexual assault charges. As part of the investigation, Hermoso was invited to file a formal complaint.
The prosecutor’s office said that Hermoso’s testimony, given one day earlier, would be processed “as soon as possible”. Under a recently passed sexual consent law, Rubiales could face a fine or between one and four years in prison if found guilty of sexual assault, it added.
In a statement published late last month, Hermoso said the incident had left her feeling “vulnerable and a victim of aggression”. She described the kiss as an “impulsive act, sexist, out of place and without any type of consent from my part”.
Her statement followed days of uproar during which Rubiales dismissed critics of the kiss as “idiots and stupid people”, before offering an apology widely seen as half-hearted. The 46-year-old later sought to portray the kiss as consensual.
Soon after, Rubiales was provisionally suspended by Fifa and ordered to refrain from contact with Hermoso and those close to her. Days later, amid mounting outrage over the kiss as well as Rubiales grabbing his crotch as La Roja won the World Cup, the federation demanded that he resign.
On Tuesday, it sought to distance itself further from Rubiales with a statement that apologised for the “enormous damage” caused by the actions of its president.
While Rubiales has yet to resign, on Tuesday the federation announced that it had dismissed Jorge Vilda, the controversial coach for the national women’s team. The deep divide between much of the team and Vilda was laid bare last year after 15 players refused to play for him, with some describing him as controlling and overbearing.
Late on Tuesday, Vilda argued that his firing was unwarranted. “I have given 100% over 17 years and I do not understand [the decision]. I did not deserve my sacking,” he told the broadcaster Cadena Ser.
His position, however, had become untenable as fallout from Rubiales’s actions continued, with 81 footballers refusing to play for the national team’s current leadership and nearly all of his coaching staff resigning.
Vilda defended his decision to applaud Rubiales after the football head lashed out at “fake feminism” and bemoaned what he saw as a “social assassination” during a federation assembly. “When 140, 150 people stand up and applaud, it is quite difficult to be the only one that doesn’t. Afterwards you’re in a bit of shock, you reflect and you think: ‘I would never applaud that,’” said Vilda.
He denied claims that he had pressured Hermoso to take part in Rubiales’s apology in a bid to reduce the pressure on the football chief and noted that he had not seen the kiss when it happened in Sydney. “When I saw the footage, I was surprised. It’s an inappropriate act,” he said.
Late last Friday, Rubiales sent out a new statement to Spanish media, saying that he had “made some obviously mistakes which I sincerely regret”, and lashing out at what he described as an “unprecedented political and media lynching”. He vowed to continue to defend himself in order to “prove the truth”.
He did not reply to a request for comment from the Guardian, sent to him via the federation.