MADRID (Reuters) – Regional representatives of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) late on Monday demanded the immediate resignation of the body’s President Luis Rubiales for grabbing player Jenni Hermoso and kissing her on the lips at the World Cup.
Many of the representatives had initially applauded Rubiales when he announced on Friday he would not quit, but are now asking him to step down after the country’s High Court prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation on whether Rubiales might have committed an act of sexual aggression.
“Following recent events and the unacceptable behaviour that has seriously damaged Spanish football’s image, the (regional) presidents demand that Luis Rubiales immediately resign,” the representatives said in a statement.
The about-turn at the federation added pressure on Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on Saturday amid a furore over the incident at the presentation ceremony following Spain’s World Cup win in Sydney on Aug. 20.
Rubiales, 46, has refused to step down, saying the kiss – which took place in a live broadcast – was consensual. His mother is holed up in a church in the family’s hometown of Motril and has started a hunger strike in support of her son.
Hermoso, her team mates and the Spanish government say the kiss was unwanted and demeaning.
The situation has spiralled into a national row over women’s rights, macho behaviour and sexual abuse with many acting ministers asking for Rubiales to leave.
Acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz demanded the dismissal of the head coaches of both men’s and women’s national squads.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; editing by Charlie Devereux and Ed Osmond)