The female soccer stars of the world are aggrieved that a sexist act has tarnished their crowning moment. Spain’s achievement in winning its first World Cup has been overshadowed by a non-consensual kiss by Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), on Jenni Hermoso during celebrations after the final against England at Stadium Australia. The pitch has become one of the spaces where players have demonstrated their solidarity toward Hermoso, a former FC Barcelona star who now plays for CF Pachuca in Mexico.
Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, a field still enchanted by the glories of Diego Maradona and Pelé, was given over to women’s soccer on Tuesday. For the first time, FC Barcelona’s women’s team played at the legendary stadium, taking on Club América Femenil, the reigning champions of Mexican soccer. At the same time, in northern Mexico, five-time champions Tigres faced Real Madrid, a side featuring Mexican player Kenti Robles. It was a night of women’s soccer at a time when the entire community of female players has been united in solidarity with Hermoso. Before both friendly matches, the players posed with a sign: “It’s over, you’re not alone!”
“Now that we are together, now that they can see us, let the likes of Rubiales go. They will fall, they will fall!” and “Out with Rubiales, chauvinism has no place anymore!” chanted fans belonging to Barra Feminista, a supporters’ group dedicated to removing sexism and homophobia from Mexico’s soccer stadiums. The banners in support of Jenni Hermoso focused on the message Alexia Putellas wrote on social media after Rubiales’ incendiary behavior at the World Cup: “It’s over.”
Before the match, Spain’s Andrea Pereira, who plays for Liga MX Femenil team Club América, commented that the crisis engulfing the RFEF had been only a matter of time. “We had been seeing things that should not be happening within a federation for a long time. Finally, through this unpleasant event, everyone has come together with the national team and with women. This is positive, although it takes focus away from the sporting side. This should have happened much earlier.”
Rubiales’ non-consensual kiss with Hermoso triggered global outrage, which grew further when he refused to resign. Rubiales remains in office — albeit under a 90-day suspension imposed by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee — despite the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office opening a preliminary investigation into the RFEF chief for a possible crime of sexual aggression. And in the streets of Madrid, hundreds of women protested Monday with slogans such as “It’s not a peck, it’s an aggression,” in reference to Rubiales’ attempt to explain the incident despite Hermoso herself reproached stating that she felt she had not been respected and was “the victim of an aggression.”
Hermoso’s move to Pachuca from Barcelona came as a surprise, although the club has been one of the biggest investors in the transfer market. The Spain number 10 was given a lavish welcome with messages of support from Hugo Sánchez, Rafa Márquez, and Hristo Stoichkov. In her first season, Pachuca reached the final of the Liga MX Femenil, where they were beaten by Club América.
Mexico’s soccer authorities have condemned — without directly mentioning Rubiales — the incidents that occurred after the World Cup final. “Beyond the fact that it occurred outside our jurisdiction, it is an event that reminds us that we cannot lower our guard as a society and we must continue working to make our league a space where any woman can feel safe,” said a statement issued a few days ago.
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