In the eight days since Spanish FA chief Luis Rubiales grabbed World Cup player Jenni Hermosa and forcibly kissed her in front of horrified spectators, Spain and the world of football have been consumed by a firestorm that shows no sign of abating.
There have been a series of seemingly never-ending twists and turns in the saga that has overshadowed the Spanish team’s triumph on the world stage and quickly turned into Spain’s own MeToo movement.
The overwhelming feeling amongst the Spanish team and football fans as a whole is incredulity that Rubiales, who was also seen grabbing his crotch when Spain beat England last Sunday, is still effectively in his job.
At one stage last week, fans and commentators had seriously thought he might step down with his tail between his legs, only for Rubiales to defend kissing Hermosa on the lips and repeatedly say ‘I will not resign’.
And today, the saga has become even more bizarre with Rubiales’ mother Angeles Bejar locking herself in a church in a hunger strike over the ‘inhuman’ treatment of her son.
It comes as prosecutors at Spain’s top criminal court this afternoon opened an investigation into Rubiales’ forcible kiss on the grounds that it could constitute a crime of ‘sexual assault’.
They are also looking at how Rubiales’ grabbed his crotch in the Royal box alongside Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Infanta Sofia during the match.
And in yet another development that could have devastating consequences for Spanish football, super clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid face being axed from the Champions League after the Spanish FA called for the UEFA to consider expelling them from the tournament in an astonishing act of self-sabotage.
In the eight days since Spanish FA chief Luis Rubiales grabbed World Cup player Jenni Hermosa and forcibly kissed her in front of horrified spectators, Spain and the world of football have been consumed by a firestorm that shows no sign of abating
And today, the saga has become even more bizarre with Rubiales’ mother Angeles Bejar (left) locking herself in a church in a hunger strike over the ‘inhuman’ treatment of her son
Spain’s acting Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Labor and Social Economy Yolanda Diaz and Amanda Gutierrez president of the Spain’s women football’s union FUTPRO, which defends Spain’s midfielder Jennifer Hermoso, give a press conference in Madrid today
And in yet another development that could have devastating consequences for Spanish football , super clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid (pictured) face being axed from the Champions League after the Spanish FA called for the UEFA to consider expelling them from the tournament in an astonishing act of self-sabotage
Rubiales’ allies in the Spanish FA have become frustrated that the Spanish government has joined calls for their leader to resign for his ‘intolerable’ behaviour and essentially reported themselves to UEFA for having a third party ‘influence’ their internal affairs.
But in their bid to get the government to back off, the Spanish FA could shoot itself in the foot – all to save the job and already damaged reputation of one man – and see all of Spain’s clubs excluded from UEFA competitions like Champions League and Europa League.
Yet Spain’s Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, who is also deputy prime minister, today defiantly came out and launched a scathing attack on Rubiales and said male chauvinism was ‘systematic’ in the country.
The saga, which has centred on Rubiales and overshadowed Spain’s 1-0 victory against England in the World Cup, began when the football chief grabbed Hermosa by the face and kissed her forcibly on the lips as the world watched in disbelief.
In the days that have followed, Rubiales has refused to resign and defiantly told an emergency assembly of his federation on Friday that he was the victim of a ‘witch hunt’ by ‘false feminists.’
On a day that will go down as one of the ugliest in Spanish football, Rubiales said that Hermoso had consented to the ‘mutual’ kiss.
Hermoso replied in two statements to say that was false and that she considered herself the victim of an abuse of power, while accusing the federation of trying to pressure her into supporting Rubiales.
The federation hit back by saying she was lying and that it would take legal action against her.
This reaction was met with outrage and in a defiant show of support, all 11 members of the Spanish coaching staff resigned in solidarity.
And on Saturday, the FIFA finally responded by suspending Rubiales for 90 days on Saturday and Spain’s government is also pursuing his permanent removal in Spain’s Administrative Court for Sports.
The court is meeting today to examine the complains against him for forcibly kissing Hermoso – and if found guilty, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office.
And at the same time that the court is meeting, Rubiales’ mother Angeles Bejar went on hunger strike inside the Divina Pastora church in the southern seaside town of Motril, east of Malaga.
Bejar, a former hairdresser, has locked herself in the church and will continue her ‘indefinite, day and night’ hunger strike until Hermoso ‘tells the truth’ about what happened.
‘There is a harassment that is not fair. His mother who has a deep faith, has found refuge in God, she has gone on hunger strike, she does not want to leave the church,’ said Vanessa Ruiz Bejar, who is Rubiales’ cousin.
‘What is happening does not seem fair, he has been condemned already. It does not seem normal… We want Jenni to tell the truth because she has changed her statement three times. His family is suffering greatly.’
Angeles is believed to have sneaked into the church early this morning when a cleaner arrived and hid herself until she left.
Rubiales arrived in Motril at the weekend and was staying locally with his daughters before leaving again. A family friend said Rubiales was ‘worried’ about his mother’.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Maria Mora said: ‘I’ve spoken to Luis and he is obviously worried about his mother. She’s locked herself her and is not in the best of health.
Rubiales is under huge pressure to quit after kissing Spanish player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips without consent after Spain’s 1-0 win against England in the World Cup final on August 20
Rubiales sparked more outrage after footage emerged of him grabbing his crotch while celebrating Spain’s win in the vicinity of Spanish Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter
Angeles Bejar (L), mother of the head of Spain’s soccer federation Luis Rubiales chats with a friend at the entrance to la Divina Pastora church in Motril amid her hunger strike on Monday
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Maria Mora (pictured) said: ‘I’ve spoken to Luis and he is obviously worried about his mother. She’s locked herself her and is not in the best of health
‘She should be at home and he is apprehensive because he can’t speak with her on the telephone as the signal is not good inside the church.
‘That’s why I came down here to see if I could get in but she isn’t opening the door to anyone. Luis was here this weekend and we saw him but he’s left now.
‘There was too much attention around him and his family and he decided it wasn’t fair on them and the neighbours so that’s why he’s gone. He was staying with his mother and his daughters were with him.
‘He is a really nice guy and this whole thing has been blown out of all proportion. He was just happy Spain had won and wanted to celebrate.
‘It was the sort of kiss you give a child, a quick peck, nothing else, there was nothing sinister.
‘It would be such a shame if he lost his job over all this. It’s only because it’s summer and there is nothing to write about that it’s become such a big case.
‘He sent a text earlier saying he was leaving because it was too much, and he couldn’t trust anyone.’
While Rubiales has described the kiss as ‘mutual, euphoric and consensual’ with the backing of his family, Hermoso has said ‘at no time’ did she consent to it.
‘I felt vulnerable and a victim of an assault, an impulsive macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part. Simply, I was not respected,’ she added in a statement on Friday.
The forceful kiss and abuse of power has sent shockwaves through the sporting world and Spain alike.
More than 80 current and former Spanish players, including the 23 who travelled to Australia and New New Zealand for the Women’s World Cup, said they will not play until Rubiales resigns.
Spain great Andrés Iniesta, a 2010 World Cup winner, said yesterday: ‘After what has happened this week I would like to express my sadness, as a person, as a father of three girls, as a husband and as a soccer player.
‘We have had to bear this president who clung to power, didn’t admit that his behaviour had been unacceptable and was damaging the image of our country and our soccer before the world,’ Iniesta said.
Rubiales’ behaviour has tarnished not only the greatest feat of Spanish women’s soccer, it has also torn apart his federation.
Spanish Football Federation chief Luis Rubiales defiantly refused to resign in his speech
Rubiales embraces Spanish player Aitana Bonmati during the presentation ceremony
The only public support Rubiales has received came during Friday’s general assembly when he was applauded several times by parts of the mostly male crowd, which was made up of regional federation officials, coaches, referees and players from lower divisions.
But his refusal to go quietly led to some resignations from his board, including the vice president in charge of women’s soccer. The federation will also keep open its own internal probe into the incident as part of its sexual violence protocol.
Those who applauded his diatribe included women’s coach Jorge Vilda – Hermoso’s coach – and Spain’s men’s coach Luis de la Fuente. But once FIFA took down Rubiales, it took only hours for both coaches to issue statements sanctioning their now former boss.
Spanish Minister Diaz told reporters today: ‘On Friday we saw the worst of Spanish society, of the structural machismo of this country.
‘They clapped and humiliated and made fun of a person they had the obligation to protect under the sports law and far from doing that, they inflicted more damage, more pain, more vexation.’
She insisted, however, that Spanish society was predominantly ‘feminist’ and ‘an example in the world’. ‘That’s why these behaviours are much more shocking,’ she said.