Just a few weeks ago, during the election campaign, one could get the impression that Spain was a modern country. The government's achievements in women's rights have been praised around the world. Spain's Equal Opportunities Minister Irene Montero celebrated her draft law, which is intended to make sick leave easier for people with severe menstrual cramps. We also have her to thank for the "sexual freedom" package of laws, which tightens sex crimes. When a man has sex with a woman who does not clearly consent, it is considered rape. The "Only yes means yes" law was considered a milestone in women's rights. This is not the case in any other European country. Spain was considered a pioneer, a champion.
Now Spain's women have actually become champions in another discipline, even world champions - in women's football. For the first time in the country's history. But the joy of the victory has long since given way to outrage. Because the President of the Spanish Football Association, Luis Rubiales, kissed the offensive player Jennifer Hermoso on the mouth without being asked during the victory celebration in front of the cameras. He acts like it's the most normal thing in the world, even though the number ten player feels "vulnerable and the victim of an assault, an impulsive, macho act that was inappropriate and that I didn't consent to."
That Rubiales is still in office a week after this incident is not just a scandal. It also shows that the southern European country is still a long way from realizing women's rights. It does exist on paper. Rather, it seems that Spain still lives up to the cliché that many Central Europeans have: a Catholic macho country where the men call the shots and the women lose out.
The winning goal of the Spaniards will not remain in the memory of this World Cup. The picture of the bald football official kissing the player's mouth will remain. The scene that shows him in the stands shortly after the final whistle will also remain. When, in the thrill of victory, he grabbed his privates and moved his hips towards the players on the field, as if sporting success would arouse him sexually. His speech at the special meeting of the football association last Friday is already historic. Not only because he repeated five times in a row: "I will not resign." Also because he got applause for it five times in front of the assembled committee - almost all men. A not inconsiderable part of the Spaniards clapped along in silence. That's why Rubiales feels so unassailable.
The fact that 23 world champions and one player from the men's national team then refused to play for the national team under the current leadership of the association is certainly unique in the history of football. However, this boycott puts the spotlight on a society that is still dominated by male associations - not only in the football association, but also in politics. Especially with the conservative Partido Popular (PP) party, which has been shaken up by countless scandals. But also with the ultra-right nationalist VOX party, whose representatives prefer to see women at the stove anyway than in offices, in politics or on the football field. For decades, these men's gangs, which of course also exist in the socialist PSOE, have foisted jobs and jobs on one another.
The Rubiales case is just one recent, terrifying example. The fact that the 46-year-old football official, with an annual salary of EUR 675,000, did not have to resign years ago is a scandal in itself. His career is lined with mistakes. It was only three years ago that his own uncle reported him to the anti-corruption authorities because he is said to have paid for a sex party with funds from the association. At that time, it is said, he billed the service of escort ladies with a hospitality receipt. The Spanish public prosecutor's office is also currently checking whether everything went right when Rubiales sold the Spanish Supercup to Saudi Arabia.
This is not the only reason why memories are awakened of former King Juan Carlos, who collected bribes in the 100 million range from Saudi Arabia and, according to Swiss investigations, is said to have tried to book these for himself without paying taxes. The communication of the football association is also reminiscent of an unscrupulous monarch to whom everyone has to bow. Apparently, the association's press office faked a message quoting the player who refused numerous advances in a conversation. The kiss was a "mutual gesture of affection and gratitude," it says.
That alone is a scandal for which the press team involved should be fired without notice. In the case of King Juan Carlos, the Spanish media has long muzzled itself, even though many journalists knew the royal press team was telling them lies. Now the player concerned is exposing the association and its president with a press release from the players' union that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. Thank God.
"Luis Rubiales' words with which he explains the unfortunate incident are categorically wrong and part of the manipulative culture that he created himself," Jennifer Hermoso is quoted as saying, this time in the original. "I clarify that at no point did the conversation he mentions take place, much less was the kiss consensual. I would like to reiterate, as I did at the time, that this act was not to my liking."
Rubiales still sees himself as the victim of a "social assassination." There are idiots and fools everywhere who misinterpret normal expressions of happiness as sexual assault. He obviously also counts Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz among these. She will meet the accidentally kissed player earlier in the week to discuss the incident. Díaz is one of many politicians in Spain who are calling for the resignation of the association's president after Hermoso's statement. Díaz has filed a complaint against Rubiales with the Spanish Sports Council (CSD), which could start impeachment proceedings against the official. The pressure on the macho official is increasing. That speaks for Spain. Even Fifa's disciplinary committee has already suspended the Spanish association boss. Rubiales is thus blocked from all football-related activities at national and international level. The suspension is provisional for 90 days.
Whether his kiss will also have criminal consequences depends on politics. Under the new laws of the current government, sexual activity without the consent of both parties is a criminal offense. It is questionable whether this will be the case for much longer. Spain's King Felipe has just instructed the leader of the Partido Popular, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, to form a coalition government. If he succeeds together with VOX and splinter parties, Spain's progressive women's rights will soon be a thing of the past.