Embattled Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales has been provisionally suspended by FIFA for 90 days in the wake of the World Cup kissing row.
The 46-year-old has refused to step down despite mounting pressure from within Spanish football and the government.
He grabbed player Jenni Hermoso and kissed her on the lips during the awards ceremony following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England last Sunday in Sydney, Australia.
Who said what in World Cup kiss row?
FIFA said it had suspended Mr Rubiales “from all football-related activities at national and international level”.
He has also been ordered not to contact or to attempt to contact Hermoso for the duration of his suspension.
“This suspension, which will be effective as of today, is for an initial period of 90 days”, pending the disciplinary proceedings against Mr Rubiales.
The decision by FIFA came amid an escalating row.
Hermoso, a 33-year-old forward, said “in no moment” did she consent to the kiss. She and her teammates have vowed not to play for Spain again – days after winning the World Cup for the first time.
The country’s football federation has stood by its president, who says the kiss was consensual, and threatened legal action to defend him.
In a lengthy statement issued earlier Saturday, the federation showed a series of images it claimed show Mr Rubiales was not lying.
“Mr President’s feet are ostensibly lifted from the ground as a result of the player’s action,” the statement said.
“The tests are conclusive. Mr President has not lied.
“The RFEF and Mr President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.”
The statement threatened legal action, saying that playing for the national team “is an obligation for all members of the federation if they are called up”.
The federation said it regretted the row was taking away from the World Cup success it wanted to celebrate.
‘I won’t resign’
Mr Rubiales claimed the kiss was “mutual” and “with consent” at a meeting of the Spanish football federation’s general assembly on Friday.
He added he was the victim of a witch-hunt by “false feminists” after rapidly repeating “I won’t resign” five times.
In the version of events Mr Rubiales gave to the assembly, he said Hermoso had lifted him up in celebration and he asked her for “a little kiss?” and she said yes.
“The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters,” Mr Rubiales said.
He said that he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence.
Spanish football’s ‘Me Too’?
Mr Rubiales cannot be sacked by the government, but the head of the state-run sports council, Victor Francos, says it will use a legal procedure in a sports tribunal.
“We want this to be a ‘Me Too’ of Spanish soccer, ” Mr Francos said.
People have gathered outside the Spanish Soccer Federation in Madrid to protest against Mr Rubiales, with some carrying banners or holding up red cards.
Before the kiss, he had grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture from the section of dignitaries at the stadium, with Spain’s Queen Letizia and the 16-year-old Princess Infanta Sofia standing nearby.
The controversy has overshadowed the final and Spain’s first triumph in the global tournament.
The team arrived back in Madrid after delivering heartbreak to England – with Olga Carmona’s first-half goal proving too much for the Lionesses.
Hermoso started the match in the World Cup final in Sydney, but was denied the chance to get on the scoresheet after her penalty was stopped by England goalkeeper Mary Earps.
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