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The kiss captured on camera after the game. SUR
The controversial World Cup kiss
Opinion

The controversial World Cup kiss

Luis Rubiales, high on the excitement of winning, didn’t realise the media frenzy his actions would stir up

Rob Palmer, football commentator ESPN

Friday, 25 August 2023, 12:19

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It should be the week when Spain is rejoicing in the women’s team ruling the world of football, but instead the focus is on a stolen kiss.

The downside of covering a major event as a sports journalist is the presence of news journalists. They’re not interested in boring football stuff or the glorious winners. They want a bad news story. Unfinished stadia, fan mayhem, scandal, or intrigue.

All was quiet Down Under, apart from the sidebar of a fall-out between some of the Spain squad and the hierarchy, until the federation’s president decided to plant a smacker on one of the heroines. This was as good as winning the World Cup for the news teams.

Luis Rubiales, still high on the excitement of winning the ultimate prize in women’s soccer, didn’t realise the media frenzy as images circulated of him kissing the lips of Jenni Hermoso. He initially said that anyone who took offence was an idiot. The tidal wave was about to hit: it wasn’t a spontaneous issue he could brush off with an impromptu media huddle as the party headed home.

Now I have an experience that I can draw upon, with me in the role as Ms Hermoso - believe it or not. When a colleague of mine was wed, it became apparent that I would have to greet her with a kiss. I thought the bride would offer her cheek; but she pouted first and, in a calamity, our lips touched. It was awkward. I’ve jokingly teased her that I’m reporting the incident to HR. We’ve agreed on a distant fist-pump when we meet now.

If Snr Rubiales had apologised and claimed he was attempting to peck her forehead, à la Laurent Blanc and Fabien Barthez, he may have a lightweight defence. Foolishly, he tried to reason. Later, pictures emerged of him apparently grabbing his crotch in the royal box (not a euphemism) on the full-time whistle, in celebration. When his plans to bask in the glory were ruined, he needed to launch a defence.

Anyone who reaches presidential status makes enemies along the way; all his enemies came out to play, plus many who thought his behaviour was just plain stupid.

His only hope was that the player would give him some grace. She half-joked on social media post-match that the kiss wasn’t welcomed, but kept a dignified silence as her team spent a week celebrating an incredible achievement.

Hermoso announced she’s going to take legal action, the prime minister declared the apology was ‘not adequate’ and the Spanish FA have launched an investigation, although I’m not sure what there is to survey about a high-powered man giving an employee an unwanted public display of affection.

The president’s days appeared to be numbered. Will he get a golden handshake? It certainly won’t be an affectionate farewell kiss. Maybe we now know why the president of the English FA, Prince William, chose to stay at home and keep a social distance.

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