Like I promised, we’re back with more news about the Spanish women’s soccer team because so much stuff has happened. It’s been occasionally surreal since we last visited them. I’m keeping my imaginary clueless interviewer busy.
Oh, it’s really no work at all. So what has happened?
Seventeen days after Luis Rubiales’ infamous press conference with his “I won’t resign!” tantrum, that’s exactly what he did. In the interim period, the Spanish government announced sexual assault charges against him for the thing he did in front of all the cameras. His mother made headlines, too, by locking herself in her church, announcing a hunger strike until her son was exonerated, then needed to be hospitalized two days later because of underlying conditions that made starving herself medically inadvisable. However, la familia Rubiales is not exactly a united front, as his uncle Juan Rubiales gave a scathing interview calling Luis a pathetic little boy who surrounds himself with money, power, and women to cover up how sad and insignificant he is.
Sounds like next Christmas at the Rubiales’ house will be interesting.
Keep in mind that Uncle Juan probably has an ax to grind, as he had a cushy job at RFEF before his nephew fired him. Even so, do any of his words jar with what we’ve seen out of the ex-federation president so far?
What about those criminal charges against Luis Rubiales?
He could be facing five years in prison, though people who are more familiar with the Spanish justice system than me say that even if he’s convicted, it’s unlikely he’ll spend any time behind bars since he has no prior criminal record. We’ll probably have to content ourselves with the extreme public humiliation that we’ve visited upon him.
What about his employees?
The coach of the Spanish men’s team, Luis de la Fuente, was also among Rubiales’ loyalists cheering for him at that press conference, and his job may be on thin ice as well despite his subsequent attempts to distance himself from the sinking ship. Jorge Vilda said the same thing, but he was fired anyway, and he went down proclaiming his innocence. Maybe he and Rubiales can go to work for Michigan State’s athletic department.
Boo, hiss! Spartans 4 life!
Really? Since when? You’re right, though. I shouldn’t say that. All the Big Ten schools seem to like hiring sex pests, but these guys don’t have to take refuge in college football. They may pop up somewhere else in soccer. Let’s hope it’s some backwater like the one that Lydia Tár wound up in.
Did their ousters solve everything?
No! The RFEF was taken over by Pedro Rocha, another Rubiales loyalist, while the head coaching position went to Montse Tomé, one of Vilda’s assistants and the first woman ever to be head coach of the Spanish women’s team. The players announced that they were still on strike. In most countries, players are free to refuse a call-up to the national team, but in Spain, it’s actually against the law, and the players could have been fined or even banned from playing for Spanish club teams as well as the national team, so they were risking a lot.
How’d that get resolved?
It took a last-minute intervention by the Spanish government to get them to take the pitch for last Friday’s Nations League match against Sweden. The deal brokered apparently included an equal-pay promise similar to what the U.S. players have, as well as other safeguards. Jenni Hermoso, the player victimized by Rubiales, was left off the team, which Tomé said was for her own protection. That protection looks a lot like retaliation from here, and to Hermoso herself. The players issued a statement of solidarity with her before the game, which Spain won 3-2 on a last-second penalty. RFEF has continued to clean house by forcing out Andreu Camps, one more Rubiales guy and reportedly behind the false press statements from the federation that Hermoso had consented to the kiss. Spain will now participate in next summer’s Olympics, so we’ll see what other changes have been put in place by that time.
How is Natalie Portman involved with all this?
The Oscar-winner is a part owner of the NWSL team Angel City FC, along with a bevy of famous women (Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Serena Williams, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Gabrielle Union). Therefore, Portman had the stature to say how inspired she was by the Spanish women’s fight for their rights as human beings. Angel City is currently one point outside the NWSL playoff places, and with almost the entire league in the hunt with only two matches left to go, it’s worth keeping an eye on. Don’t be surprised if a Spanish player or two comes to L.A. during the next transfer window.
You know, if Rubiales had just stood there after the World Cup win and politely shaken everybody’s hand, he’d not only still have a job, his position would have been greatly strengthened. Why didn’t he do that?
He was never going to do that, because he’s the type of guy who needs to be near the spotlight when something good happens. He was always going to behave the way he did. Character is fate, Freud said. Rubiales’ character dictated that he behave that way, and had he done that at World Cup 2015, it wouldn’t have been a crime under Spanish law. Now, though, things have changed in Spanish society so that a man can’t get away with this in public anymore. Let’s hope that this sordid episode inspires women in other places like Haiti and Zambia that they can fight for their rights even if they don’t win the World Cup. The great work continues in Spain and elsewhere.