Madrid and the entire nation of Spain exploded with joy on Monday as the triumphant Women's World Cup champions returned home. Streets were filled with jubilant residents, honking horns, waving flags, and chanting as the victorious soccer squad paraded through the capital city on a bus adorned with the word "Campeones."
However, the morning after their celebration, outrage over a nonconsensual kiss overshadowed the festivities.
Spain's acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, publicly condemned Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation. Videos from the trophy ceremony on Sunday showed Rubiales forcefully grabbing player Jenni Hermoso's head with both hands and kissing her on the mouth. Sánchez labeled this action as "unacceptable" and deemed Rubiales' apology insufficient and inadequate. He further emphasized the need for Rubiales to take resolute action in order to clarify this behavior as unacceptable, indicating that Spain still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality and respect.
In response to the incident, Miguel Ángel Galán, president of the National Football Coaches Center, filed a complaint with the National Sports Council, referring to the kiss as an "intolerable sexist act." He has requested an investigation by the country's Sports Administrative Court.
Although Hermoso initially expressed her dissatisfaction with the kiss on social media, she later released a statement to news agency EFE. In her statement, she claimed to have had a good relationship with Rubiales and characterized his gesture as a natural display of appreciation and affection.
Rubiales' initial apology during a radio interview was poorly received. He described the kiss as a celebration between friends and criticized those who interpreted it otherwise as "idiots and stupid people." As public outrage intensified, the Spanish Football Association issued a video apology in which Rubiales acknowledged that although they viewed the gesture as natural and without ill intent, he had to apologize to those who were hurt by it.
Spain's Women's World Cup victory was a momentous occasion for the country, but the controversy surrounding the nonconsensual kiss serves as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done in ensuring gender equality and respect in the world of sports.
A Bittersweet Victory
The celebration of Spain's triumph in the cup is not without its shadows. The president of the Spanish Soccer Federation, Luis Rubiales, openly admitted to the stain on their success caused by certain actions. In a video that went viral on Twitter, Rubiales is seen making an emotional gesture alongside Queen Letizia, which has generated criticism and controversy.
This incident takes place amidst a backdrop of discontent within the team. Last year, 15 players expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of professionalism in the national team and announced their decision to abstain from playing. This stance put them at odds with coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish Soccer Federation. While three of those players did return for the final, the conflict remains unresolved.
Despite the controversy surrounding the victory, the historic achievement has been warmly embraced by the country. Similar to the celebration of Spain's men's team, which won the World Cup in 2010 and has been successful in the UEFA European Football Championship, the women's team victory has captivated the nation.
The homecoming celebration held at Madrid Río riverside park was a testament to this overwhelming support. Despite scorching temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees, devoted fans of all ages patiently waited for hours for the team's arrival. Joyful onlookers danced, sang, and cheered as they eagerly awaited the new champions.
The scene at Puente del Rey bridge was particularly electric, with people standing on benches, trash cans, and even each other's shoulders to catch a glimpse of their heroes. The atmosphere echoed that of 13 years ago when Spain's men's team secured a thrilling World Cup victory over the Netherlands. With this win, Spain joins Germany as the only countries to boast both male and female World Cup champions.
The women's team may have faced adversity and controversy along their journey, but their success has united a nation in celebration.