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The World Rallies Behind Jenni Hermoso

By Lord Castleton | News | August 28, 2023 |

By Lord Castleton | News | August 28, 2023 |


Whether or not you’ve been following the 2023 Women’s World Cup, you’ve probably seen people rallying around Jenni Hermoso on social media.

To catch you up if this is the first you’re hearing about it: Spain’s Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is a toxic catastrophe of unconscionable patriarchal malice. This is known.

In 2022, 15 players from La Roja, Spain’s Women’s National Team sent a private internal email message taking issue with the management of the team and their emotional wellbeing. They intended to keep the matter private, but the Spanish Federation shared the letter with the press, spinning it in an attempt to make the players seem out of line. The players spoke about lack of preparation for matches, half-baked travel plans including taking buses when planes were the better option and bizarro coaching oversteps like allegedly asking the players to keep their hotel doors open until midnight for some reason and inspecting their personal bags after they returned from private excursions during training camps

The fifteen players were Aitana Bonmati, Ona Batlle, Mariona Caldentey, Patri Guijarro, Mapi Leon, Sandra Panos, Claudia Pina, Lola Gallardo, Ainhoa Moraza, Nerea Eizagirre, Amaiur Sarriegi, Lucia Garcia, Leila Ouahabi, Laia Aleixandri and Andrea Pereira. Three additional players voiced their support for the others but did not send emails: Two-time Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas (widely considered the best player in the world), Jennifer Hermoso, and Irene Paredes.

The Spanish Federation immediately backed Vilda and he said that he would accept the players back if they apologized to him. It was shocking. Die-hard fans couldn’t believe the tenor of the Federation’s callous response. Not only did they refuse to take the requests into consideration, but they publicly shamed the players who had tried to keep the emails private in the first place and suggested that the players were throwing a “tantrum.”

It was straight-up misogyny. There’s no other word for it.

That said, a sizeable number of casual fans who were unfamiliar with the internal workings of the Spanish Federation were successfully swayed by the Federation’s PR campaign. How bad could it possibly be? Athletes need to toughen up, right?

Several key players were so disgusted with the tactics that they refused to play for the team in the World Cup. Can you imagine requesting better travel planning and then being demeaned by the very federation that’s purportedly meant to support you? Can you also imagine the heart-wrenching decision of being so appalled by your treatment that you have to forgo competing in an event that you’ve worked for your entire life? Top-tier players Mapi Leon, Claudia Pina, and Patri Guijarro had enough and refused to play for a coach and a federation that treated them like that.

Still, the public was split. Why would anyone ever take the word of the players from the best women’s team in the world?

Fast forward to the World Cup, where the players have to rise to the occasion playing for a coach they loathe and a federation that treats them like second-class citizens. Still, they somehow have enough love for their country and for each other that in only their third visit to the Women’s World Cup, Spain wins the whole damn thing. They truly deserved it.

In the immediate aftermath as the final whistle blows, players noticeably aren’t celebrating with Head Coach Jorge Vilda.

Meanwhile, in the stands, here’s Spanish Federation president Luis Rubiales.

A fish stinks from the head. Can you imagine that this man is the president of the Spanish Federation? By the way, that’s Spain’s monarch and her underage daughter next to him there.

Now we move to the medal ceremony. Millions of fans watch worldwide as each player is awarded their medal and then they go, one by one, through the receiving line. Everyone is appropriate until the players get to this one guy. He’s hugging every player, picking them up off their feet, and then kissing them.

I was watching with my daughter and I asked, “Who is this dude? Why is he mugging all the players?”

At one point, he grabs striker Jenni Hermoso and holds her head between his hands and kisses her on the lips.

Here’s a video that sums most of it up, but at the time of the reporting, the RFEF had put out a false report stating that Hermoso defended Rubiales’ actions.

The dude is grabbing his crotch in the stands and kissing players without their consent in the bright light of day in front of millions of people. It begs the question: what’s he capable of behind the scenes when no one is looking?

Karma is a bitch, because in his hubris, I wasn’t the only person watching who was appalled by his advances. He successfully shamed and silenced the team before the World Cup, but in front of millions of international fans, his chickens finally came home to roost.

The public outcry was immediate. Instead of celebrating Spain’s victory, all anyone could talk about was Rubiales kissing Hermoso. He insisted that it was consensual. Hermoso put out a statement refuting the false RFEF statement and confirming that it definitively wasn’t consensual.

Now here’s where you see some true colors. Spain won the World Cup on Sunday. Already, by Monday, there are whispers that FIFA — a rogues gallery of depravity in their own right — is considering opening up a disciplinary hearing about Rubiales’ behavior on Thursday.

The RFEF and Rubiales try to pressure Hermoso into “alleviating the pressure on Rubiales” but she isn’t having it.

So Rubiales began his damage control in the only way he knows how. At first, he lashed out at critics. On a radio interview he said “When two people have a minor show of affection, we can’t listen to idiocy. We are champions and that’s what I’ll take.”

Rubiales then moves on to the standard, tepid, horseshit non-apology apology that we’ve called out a thousand times here on Pajiba over the years. It’s the standard “I’m sorry you were offended” gaslighting nonsense.

“Well, in a moment of elation without any intention of bad faith, well, what happened happened,” Rubiales said. “I think in a very spontaneous way. I repeat, there was no bad faith between either of the two of us. From there, well, here we didn’t understand it because we saw something natural, normal and in no way, I repeat, with bad faith. But outside of the bubble, it looks like it has turned into a storm and so if there are people who have felt offended, I have to say I’m sorry. There’s no other way, right?”

What a heartfelt apology! There’s no other way, so I guess I’m sorry.

But it gets worse.

Anyone and everyone with a conscience wasn’t impressed by this flaccid mea culpa. Even Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the apologies of Rubiales were “not enough.” On Thursday, FIFA opened a disciplinary proceeding against Rubiales.

For a hot second, it looked like Rubiales was finally realizing that his goose was cooked and he floated his intention to tender his resignation. But then he doubled down, recanted, and actually lashed out at Hermoso. He called her a liar, refused to step down and the RFEF threatened to sue Hermoso.

I’m not making this up.

Everyone in the universe saw him manhandling players on international television and he had the audacity to say it was Hermoso’s fault. He said that she picked him up and that she told him the kiss was OK.

What reason could we have to doubt the word of a man who got into hot water last year for allegedly using Federation funds to host “orgies with young girls?

We then come to find out that in the locker room after the game he announced that he was going to marry Jenni Hermoso in Ibiza.

Here’s him on the field photobombing a picture with Olga Carmona and then kissing her. I don’t understand this person. This is sexual assault, plain and simple.

Despite all of the evidence that was witnessed by everyone, the arrogance of Rubiales and the RFEF continues to reach new and unprecedented heights. Last Friday morning, Rubiales calls a meeting of the Federation where he says this:

“I will not resign, I will not resign, a social assassination is taking place here.”

Rubiales blames feminism and adds “I’m ready to be vilified to defend my ideals.”

Ah yes, ideals. The eternal ideals of sexism, corruption and, if the rumors are true, a ton of cocaine. Where would we all be if not for brave souls like Luis Rubiales standing up for every man’s right to perpetrate sexual violence whenever they damn well please?

From his high horse, Rubiales continues, and in some ways this part is even nuttier because it suggests that in addition to being a delusional megalomaniac, he’s also drunk with perceived power.

He offers coach Vilda a four-year extension with a salary of 500k Euros per year.

And everyone claps!

You can’t make this shit up, people.

So, on one side you have possibly the most repellent man in soccer (but sadly, he has lots of competition) and on the other side, you have the best women players in soccer.

When Rubiales refuses to step down, the world champions step up. Friday afternoon, every member of the Spanish National Team team says they won’t play for Spain until the entire management structure resigns.

Later on Friday, in a reaction to Rubiales’ comments that morning, Víctor Francos, the president of Spain’s High Council of Sport (CSD), said the council would look to suspend Rubiales as quickly as it could while following due process.

Jenni Hermoso was interviewed Friday and recounted how she’s been under constant pressure from the RFEF to take the pressure off of Rubiales. “Not only that, but in different ways and through different people, the REF has pressured my surroundings (family, friends, teammates, etc.) to give a testimony that had little or nothing to do with my feelings,” Hermoso said.

On Saturday the FIFA world governing body suspended Rubiales from “all football-related activities at national and international level” for 90 days while disciplinary proceedings take place. FIFA additionally banned Rubiales and the RFEF from contacting Hermoso, to preserve what they called her “fundamental rights.”

The RFEF names an interim president on Saturday, and everything gets immediately better, right?


The Federation refuses to accept the letter from the players, saying that they have an “obligation” to play if called on. Furthermore, the RFEF posts a statement on Saturday (since deleted) where they continue to sling mud at Hermoso.

“The evidence is conclusive. The President has not lied,” The RFEF claimed, including accompanying images intended to support Rubiales’ position that the kiss was consensual. “We have to state that Ms. Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the president.” They also reiterated their intention to take legal action against Hermoso.

This is the goddamned federation that is supposed to be protecting the players.

This triggered a wave of eleven resignations of Spanish women’s team coaches, as well as Spain’s Women’s U20 head coach, Sonia Bermúdez. The coaches cited Rubiales’s unacceptable actions and further stated that the coaches were instructed to attend the RFEF Friday meeting where Rubiales announced that he would not resign and that “various of the women members of the coaching staff were required to sit in the front row” in an effort to give the impression that they supported Rubiales.

The head coach of Spain’s Men’s National Team, Luis de la Fuente, joined in with the voices condemning Rubiales, issuing a statement that highlighted the “wrong and out-of-place behavior by the RFEF President.”

Maybe the great Mapi Leon sums the whole debacle up best:

Translated: “It has not been necessary to spend a lot of time to see that what was demanded a few months ago was not a simple tantrum. The images speak for themselves, and I don’t think there is much more to add. It is unacceptable. For all the women, with you @Jennihermoso.”

Since then, women the world over have rallied in support of Jenni Hermoso.

Contigo Jenni is trending, meaning “with you, Jenni.”

In NWSL games this past weekend, every team raced to show their support.

The people joining their voices to support Jenni Hermoso, both women and men, are inspiring. Someone was nice enough to make this reddit megathread of all the cosigners to date.

The outpouring of support is phenomenal, and the misplaced hubris of one deplorable man will likely amplify the speed of his downfall a hundredfold. Hopefully. But USWNT legend Christen Press brings up one of the most important thoughts of all.

Had the tremendous athletes of La Roja not summoned the courage to rise to the challenge despite continuous abuse by their own federation, men like Rubiales and those who empower sexists like him would continue to run roughshod over the Spanish program. It’s sickening that Jenni Hermoso and the other players had to be assaulted to wake people up about the workplace conditions they were contending with.

Even then, with all the evidence in the open, you still have people defending the actions of the perpetrator and threatening to sue the victim. The road out of this particular archaic mindset is long and dark and fraught with the entrenched intractability of men desperate to hold on to a world that has long passed them by. Sadly, this will not be the last time we hear stories like this. This mentality infects every women’s sport, in every corner of the world, at every level. But thanks to the bravery of the women who represent Spain, maybe we can shine some light into those previously inaccessible corners, and offer a helping hand to the women trapped there, shouting into the darkness.

When women tell you they’re in danger: fucking believe them.

I know I speak for everyone here at Pajiba when I say: We’re with you, Jenni.