As the furor over that infamously unwanted kiss circles around Spain’s Football Federation chief, Luis Rubiales, some may be surprised to learn that the initial complaint wasn’t filed by the woman he kissed, but a man watching the match in Madrid.
Miguel Ángel Galán was watching with pride as Spain won the Women’s World Cup. His joy turned to disgust when Rubiales planted that forceful kiss on the team’s star striker, Jenni Hermoso.
Within minutes, Galán, the head of the National Training Center of Football Managers, said he was drafting an official complaint to the Spanish government’s High Council of Sport (CSD).
“It was a sexist and intolerable act. A chauvinist act, by a president who is already plagued by corruption scandals and sexism,” he told CNN on Thursday. “Those are the two structural problems of the Federation in Spain: corruption and sexism.”
Clearly, there are many in Spain who agree. Hundreds have turned out in protest against Rubiales. Spain’s women’s team has refused to play until Rubiales is removed. And Hermoso herself reiterated that she did not appreciate or consent to her boss’s boorish behavior at the World Cup.
“I felt vulnerable and the victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act,” she said in a statement.
Rubiales initially tried to stem the damage by recording a half-hearted video apology. But when that didn’t assuage public anger, he doubled down in a widely-broadcast Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) meeting and defiantly refused to resign, to the applause of the mostly male audience. In his latest statement, he said he made “some obvious mistakes” but had been treated unfairly.
‘Political regeneration’ needed
Since Galán filed that first complaint against Rubiales on August 20, the day of the World Cup final, 15 more complaints have been filed to the CSD, both by organizations and individuals, ranging from allegations of sexual assault to abuse of power, according to a spokesperson at the CSD. In his most recent statements, Rubiales consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Although he has an official role, unofficially Galán is the long-time nemesis of Rubiales and RFEF, where Galán has made it his mission to call out corruption.
He tells CNN he has filed more than 50 complaints, some of which led to the arrest of previous federation president – Ángel María Villar, who oversaw Spanish football for almost 30 years – on corruption charges and the walls of Galán’s unassuming office in Madrid are papered with the headlines of football scandals he has brought to light. The uproar over the kiss, he told CNN, is just the beginning of a longer fight.
“What really needs to be done now is new, clean elections,” Galán told CNN, referring to an upcoming vote for the presidency of the Spanish soccer federation, “so that women can participate in the institution. Then, through these elections in the Federation, there can finally be a political regeneration.”
As the scandal grows, even members of Rubiales’ own family have turned against him. His uncle, and former chief of staff, Juan Rubiales, told Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he had witnessed his nephew using RFEF funds to host private parties and romantic getaways, as well as soliciting commissions from Saudi officials to host Spain’s Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
“I was not surprised by that at all,” Juan Rubiales told El Mundo of the kiss. “He is an extremely arrogant man who has not acted as a President should. Instead of being a political leader, he wanted to be a warrior who sees ghosts and enemies everywhere. In the end, his own worst enemy was himself.”
CNN has reached out to both Luis Rubiales and RFEF about the allegations made by Juan Rubiales. Neither has responded.
When the furor over the kiss broke, Spain’s prosecutor had already been investigating Rubiales for influence peddling and bribery since last summer, according to CSD documents obtained by CNN.
Rubiales has consistently denied all allegations of corruption in the past.
He has been provisionally suspended by FIFA while a disciplinary hearing is underway.
‘The entire model has to change’
Steeped in tradition, RFEF has long ruled over the nation’s lucrative football fortunes. But the entry of women footballers into the professional, higher ranks has been a catalyst for change as they demand equal pay and rights, exposing the structural problems within Spanish soccer, says Beatriz Álvarez, president of La Liga F, Spain’s top women’s league.
“This is not solved with the resignation of Luis Rubiales, this requires a process of change and an absolute restructuring of the model and concept of the Football Federation itself,” said Álvarez. “I think there are many people close to Rubiales who promote this corrupt system … It is unacceptable, it shows that more than the president has to change, the entire model has to change.”
Álvarez, a former footballer herself, has had her own disagreements with Rubiales.
Months into her new job at La Liga last summer, still nursing a newborn, Álvarez said she requested a videoconference meeting with Rubiales. But the Federation chief refused, Álvarez says, telling her to focus on being a good mother at home and to delegate her work duties to someone who could meet him at his office in person.
The unwanted kiss at the World Cup, she says, is just an extension of this same attitude.
“It didn’t surprise me. It paints a portrait of who Luis Rubiales really is. The person some of us knew privately but now the whole world can actually see him,” she told CNN. “I believe it is divine justice that it is women’s football, which (he) ignored his whole career, that is finally removing this man from the Federation.”