Luis Rubiales has refused to step down as president of the Spanish football federation following his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
He had earlier grabbed his crotch as he celebrated at the final whistle.
“I will not resign, I will not resign,” he told an extraordinary general assembly called by the federation. “A social assassination is taking place.”
Rubiales apologised for the kiss on Monday before Fifa, world football’s governing body, opened disciplinary proceedings against him on Thursday.
On Friday he apologised for grabbing his crotch while celebrating in the VIP area in Stadium Australia, with Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter standing nearby.
Widespread reports in Spain suggested Rubiales would announce his resignation on Friday – but instead he vowed to “fight until the end”.
“I’m ready to be vilified to defend my ideals,” he added. “I don’t deserve this manhunt I have been suffering.
“I want to apologise without reservation for everything that happened in the box, when in a moment of euphoria I grabbed that part of my body that you have already seen.
“Of course I have to apologise, to the Queen, and to everyone who has felt offended. I have been in countless boxes and I have never behaved like that.”
Kiss was ‘mutual and consensual’
Rubiales – who was elected to his role in May 2018 – was repeatedly applauded as he addressed the assembly, which the Spanish football federation (RFEF) called “as a matter of urgency”.
He defended his actions by saying he was trying to console Hermoso after she had a late penalty saved by Mary Earps.
“Jenni was the one who lifted me up,” he said. “I told her to ‘forget about the penalty’ and I said to her ‘a little peck?’ and she said ‘OK’.
“It was a spontaneous kiss. Mutual, euphoric and consensual. That’s the key. A consensual ‘peck’ is enough to get me out of here?
“There are many people who, although silent, are supporting me. More than those who are against me.”
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Rubiales’ initial apology was “not enough” and second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz joined those calling on him to resign.
Futpro, a players’ union representing Hermoso, said the incident should not go unpunished while the 33-year-old forward said it would “defend my interests” in the matter.
The Pachuca player, who has 101 caps, initially said on Instagram she “didn’t like” Rubiales’ actions but a statement released later on her behalf defended him.
Rubiales also talked of extending the contract of controversial coach Jorge Vilda and offering him a salary of 500,000 euros.
Vilda, 42, survived a player revolt last September and the RFEF continued to back him, posting ‘VILDA IN’ on Spain’s official X account after the team’s World Cup triumph.
“Jorge Vilda, they wanted to do to you the same thing that they are doing to me now,” Rubiales said. “We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve been together.”
‘Rubiales cannot continue in office’ – reaction
Rubiales’ defiant stance has been met with widespread condemnation.
“What we have seen today at the federation assembly is unacceptable,” Spain’s second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz wrote on social network X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Minister for equality Irene Montero, who has previously called for Rubiales to resign, said on X: “Silence has not worked and discrediting the victim, her support networks and the feminist social demand for the guarantee of the right to sexual freedom will not work either. Only yes is yes.”
Victor Francos, secretary of state for sport, told Spanish radio station La Ser: “We are going to act. We have activated all the mechanisms to take the appropriate measures.”
Javier Tebas, head of Spain’s top division La Liga, said it was “very difficult to explain what is happening with Luis Rubiales”.
He added that the sport was having to “live with dealing with him as president of the RFEF. The misogynistic gestures, the profane expressions, the protocol disaster and the insults of this latest global embarrassment are not a surprise”.
Tebas went on to allege serious criminal allegations against the president, adding: “The list of women and men aggrieved by Luis Rubiales these years is too long and this must stop.”
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague posted on social media: “Against all the reporting, against the advice of people close to him, against the wish of the government (who will now go after him), Rubiales surprises even his close circle and insists he will not resign.
“Embarrassing, his explanations are obsolete. He will have to be pushed out,” he added.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Spanish football presenter Semra Hunter said: “I am both incredibly gobsmacked and at the same time not.
“There was an incredible amount of pressure both internally here within Spain and externally from basically the entire world, so in that sense it has come as a surprise because everyone this morning expected he was going to be addressing the assembly by saying yes [he will resign].
“What’s really sad about this is that he’s doubling down on the fact he’s saying this kiss – he’s not even calling it a kiss, he’s saying it’s a peck – was consensual.
“He insists it was mutual and he says it was spontaneous, and so he’s still defending himself saying he’s done nothing wrong.”
Iglesias makes himself unavailable for national team
Former Manchester United and Spain goalkeeper David de Gea wrote “my ears are bleeding” on X, while Iker Casillas, Spain’s World Cup-winning captain in 2010, simply said: “Embarrassing.”
The former Real Madrid goalkeeper later added: “We should have spent these five days talking about our girls, of the joy they gave us all, to boast of a title that we did not have in women’s football but… “
Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas, the 2021 and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, wrote on X: “This is unacceptable. It’s over. With you team-mate @jennihermoso.”
Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias, who won the second of his two caps for Spain in March, said: “I am sad and disappointed. As a footballer and as a person I don’t feel represented by what happened today. I find it unfortunate that they continue to press and focus on a colleague.
“Wearing the Spanish national team shirt is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my career. I don’t know if at some point I will be an option again, but I have made the decision not to return to the national team until things change and this type of act does not go unpunished.”
Players’ union Fifpro said it “again calls for immediate disciplinary action” against Rubiales and has written to Uefa, of which Rubiales is one of six vice-presidents, “requesting that it starts disciplinary proceedings”.
“Any lack of action by authorities in addressing the conduct of Mr Rubiales would send an entirely unacceptable and damaging message to the football industry and wider society,” Fifpro added.