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OPINION | The excitement surrounding Luis Rubiales isn’t about a kiss, it’s about making women feel safe in a sport they love | CBC sports

The end of the FIFA Women's World Cup last week gave us a lot of excitement and a new champion in Spain. We have seen the host countries thrive with their support and we have seen a team mobilize under turbulent circumstances to win the greatest prize in women's football.

But we barely had a moment to savor the joy as it was brutally snatched from the players and fans and completely overtaken by Luis Rubiales, President of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

From the moment Rubiales aggressively kissed Spanish player Jenni Hermoso at the trophy ceremony, we've seen the situation deteriorate into something that can only be described as “…”. pathetic conspiracy from a B-class telenovela.

Shortly after, an unapologetic apology came from Rubiales (complete with GTales of Irish Fathers), false statements from RFEF, staff resignation in protest, a suspension from FIFA and team boss Jorge Vilda, who supports – and then distances himself from – Rubiales who is so attached to his own ego that the entire federation is in danger of imploding. At the same time, Spain is aiming to co-host the 2030 World Cup.

I haven't even gotten to the point where Rubiales' mother (yes, his mother) has holed up in a church while on hunger strike in protest at the “inhumane hunt” for her son. It sounds absurd and ridiculous, but the situation is not funny. It's frustrating and debilitating, but not surprising either.

Demonstrators show signs in a square.
During a demonstration called by feminist groups in support of Spanish midfielder Jenni Hermoso on August 28 in Madrid, demonstrators held a sign that read “Out with Rubiales and the macho mafia”. (AFP via Getty Images)

Instead of partying in Ibiza last week as she should have, Hermoso released a statement discussing Rubiales' kiss not consensual – He claims he asked her and she agreed.

How could it happen in the nanosecond of interaction on stage and with that kind of force dynamic? Would she have felt at all comfortable saying no, especially to a man supporting the same coach? Many players on the team wanted to leave? The same man who is part of it a tradition of frustration and disrespect on women's football in Spain.

The whole situation reeks of men in power, a complete lack of accountability, and a historic moment crushed by a federation that appears to be protecting this man at all costs. Of the 140 members of the RFEF, only six are women.

There is a growing army of women and allies supporting players fed up with Spain's system of misogyny and chauvinism. Various leagues, players and athletes have taken to social media to show their support for Hermoso. Even the likes of Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta and the legendary Xavi (now FC Barcelona head coach) have spoken out about Rubiales in unprecedented ways.

The situation has created such a scandal that Yolanda Díaz, Spain's second deputy prime minister, said: “Those who applauded Rubiales [at the assembly] should not remain in their positions in my opinion.”

Now the Spanish public prosecutor's office has said that they will open an investigation to determine whether the kiss can be considered a sexual assault.

But it's not just about a kiss.

It's about making women and girls feel safe doing a sport they love. It's about gamers who work so hard to be the best in the world, but have to cut their happiest moment to navigate utterly chaotic chaos. It's about how women can never be Only As athletes, they must support and protect each other and “choose the right battles”.

It's about the other survivors, like the ones in Haiti, Afghanistan And Zambia, who received little attention in the football media when they spoke out about sexualized violence in their associations, and whose yearning for justice remains unfulfilled. FIFA has done very little to protect them – just as it is now doing as little as possible. At the time of writing, neither FIFA nor UEFA (Rubiales is conveniently the UEFA vice-president) have yet to make any public statement.

It's about feeling like a sport doesn't love you when there are hordes of people in power protecting insincere people and unfortunate characters. We should keep in mind that Spain is a federation that may have so much to hide that it cannot risk turning its back on Rubiales, who could metaphorically stab it. But twists and turns keep coming and just days after applauding him, the RFEF is calling for it Rubiales resigns.

We have a chance to make this moment legacy themed. Young girls watch as their favorite players bravely support a player who has been wronged in front of the world. The lesson may be about bravery and a range of voices that have become a global chorus and now an uprising that could represent Spanish football's own reckoning with abuse.

I wonder where Canada stands and how we can prevent this kind of mess from happening. Are we doing what is best for our current players and creating better spaces for future players?

Women's soccer has become increasingly popular in recent years. This Women's World Cup was the most successful yet, but there is still so much wrong with men in the women's football ecosystem. There are people who refuse to do better and their entitlement and arrogance can harm football for a long time.

The great game of the Spanish team was overshadowed

Anger may start a revolution, but is it justice that we will finally see? Will it be a warning to other men who disregard women on the field and behind closed doors, or will this circus continue to be a frenzy of men with power trying to save themselves while begging their female relatives for help?

Spain have only been world champions for just over a week, but will we still remember their offensive attacks in the game? Will we appreciate her tiki-taka and perfect passes that were so beautiful they made us cheer? Will we remember a final with an outstanding goalkeeper?

At this point, there is a risk that we will remember this World Cup with Rubiales as the front man. I hope we'll remember as we go along that it was a tournament that started a riot; an uprising that led to increased power and agency for women. And a movement as beautiful and powerful as the game itself.

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