“Spain Coach Luis de la Fuente Apologizes for Praising Football Federation President Amid Controversy”
Spain’s national football team coach, Luis de la Fuente, issued an apology for his earlier remarks praising the president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, and confirmed that he would not resign from his position.
The apology came in response to nationwide outrage stemming from an unsolicited kiss on the lips that RFEF President Rubiales gave to Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso last week. De la Fuente expressed remorse, stating, “I have to say sorry; I made a mistake, it’s inexcusable.”
The controversy began when Rubiales forcefully kissed Spain midfielder Hermoso during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony in Sydney on August 20, which drew global condemnation. Rubiales further fueled the controversy with a combative speech during an emergency meeting, where he refused to resign amidst growing criticism and criticized what he termed “false feminism.” During this address, De la Fuente had expressed support for Rubiales.
Hermoso had asserted that the kiss was non-consensual and made her feel like the “victim of an assault,” a claim Rubiales vehemently denied. FIFA, the international football governing body, temporarily suspended Rubiales for 90 days in response to the incident.
De la Fuente’s continued presence as coach faced significant backlash, with some, including Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, deeming his position untenable.
In his apology, De la Fuente acknowledged the criticism and expressed understanding for it, stating, “I received heavy criticism for (applauding), and I think that it’s totally deserved. I understand it, I apologize for it; it was unjustifiable.”
He explained that he had attended the assembly under the belief that it would involve the resignation of the president but was taken aback by the turn of events, generating what he described as “emotional stress” and a loss of control over his emotions.
De la Fuente confirmed his continued role as coach, a statement supported by interim RFEF President Pedro Rocha. Rocha also mentioned that he would be meeting with women’s team coach Jorge Vilda the following week. Despite the women’s team’s victory in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, there have been reports suggesting that Vilda may face dismissal.
Currently, over 80 players from the women’s team are on strike in response to the Rubiales incident, and Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias has declared his refusal to participate in the men’s team.
De la Fuente expressed his belief that Iglesias would want to participate if called up but emphasized his support for freedom of expression and thought. He did not include the forward in his squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers scheduled for later in September