The Kiss Heard Round the World
By RICARDO CASTILLO
Mexico’s Pachuca female soccer team striker Jennifer Hermoso took the stand on Monday, Oct. 9, in Madrid, Spain, to be a witness on the trial of former Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales, who stands accused by Hermoso of giving her an unsolicited kiss and attempting sexual assault against her in public.
The trial is the result of a series of events that began on Aug. 20, during celebrations for Team Spain having won the Women’s FIFA World Cup for the first time after the month-long grueling competition in the Australia-New Zealand organized event.
After the final match in Sydney, the members of the winning team lined up to receiver respective golds medal for the feat. They were doing just that when Hermoso’s turn came to greet Rubiales, who uttered a few words to her, then put her hands on her shoulders and taking a short leap as if to put his legs around her, and then finally took her head with both his hands and stunned her with a kiss on her lips.
The unsolicited kiss video went viral and so was the ensuing scandal in Spain. The Spanish media harped on the issue for at least three weeks, during which time Hermoso stated the kiss had not been consensual, and then issued a statement backed by the soccer unions of Spain and Europe.
In the next two weeks, Rubiales issued several statements claiming the kiss had been consensual and immediately before he had asked for permission. Each of Hermoso’s statements added fuel to the bonfire already lit around Rubiales, who for a while tried to avoid resignation until the world governing body of FIFA suspended him for three months. Immediately afterwards, he resigned as Spanish Federation president.
In the middle of the scandal, Hermoso decided on Sept. 7 to return to her regular job with Pachuca, 40 miles north of Mexico City, helping the team survive in the Mexican league.
Back by the unions, however, Hermoso filed suit on Sept. 20 with her accusations being admitted to put alleged offender Luis Rubiales on trial.
The trial began last week on Monday, Oct. 2, with National Assembly Judge Francisco de Jorge ordering an investigation over the incident between Rubiales and Hermoso during the Australia-New Zealand World Cup final ceremony, summoning witnesses against Rubiales. Spanish champion teammates of Hermoso backed up her accusation that Rubiales kissed her against her will.
The investigation also initially included the services of lip-reading experts to corroborate if what Rubiales said was what he claimed. Rubiales insists that he asked Hermoso if she would consent for him to give her a tiny kiss, and the lip readers claim he did say that. Yet the rest of their exchange is blurred by festive noise.
On Monday, on a televised video provided to the court by Madrid local station “Telecinco,” Hermoso described her version of the embrace and the notorious kiss on stage.
According to her, Rubiales embraced her claiming “la que hemos liado” (meaning “we’ve made it big”) and immediately after the Spanish Federation president added: “We have won this World Cup thanks to you.
Hermoso said that “what ensued was his hands over my head and I couldn’t hear anything else from that moment on.”
Asked by the court’s attorney if the kiss had been consensual and that if she had felt the victim of violence or sexual assault, she answered:
“I felt clearly that there had been no respect for me at any moment, neither as a player nor as a person,” she said. “I witnessed myself with a kiss on my mouth and directly stepped down from the podium to join my teammates.”
The “kiss scandal” has, on the other hand, overshadowed Hermoso’s achievements during the World Cup. She scored three goals and assisted in two others, for which she was considered one of the cup’s most valuable players. Also, FIFA awarded her with the prestigious “Silver Soccer Ball” prize, one of the most cherished a player can receive.
At present, Hermoso continues to be a striker for Pachuca. In fact, last Sunday, Oct. 8, she scored the fifth goal on the 6-0 thrashing Pachuca inflicted over team León.
The trial in Madrid will continue throughout the month of October, with witnesses on both sides stating their cases. Experts in Spain claim the trial may just be a bubble, as a kiss is not a crime, and the alleged sexual assault is difficult to prove with what is on video.
In the meantime, the one fallen star is Rubiales, a lawyer and former professional soccer player who is paying a high price for a kiss that was not just a kiss.