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Luis Rubiales resigns as head of Spain's soccer federation

Spain soccer federation President Luis Rubiales speaks during a news conference in Nyon, Switzerland, on Oct. 5, 2022.
Gabriel Monnet
AFP via Getty Images
Spain soccer federation President Luis Rubiales speaks during a news conference in Nyon, Switzerland, on Oct. 5, 2022.

Updated September 10, 2023 at 6:49 PM ET

It was the outcome that many have demanded for weeks: Luis Rubiales, the embattled president of Spain's soccer federation, has left his job.

Rubiales said in video of an interview released on Sunday that he was resigning "cause I cannot continue my work."

He told interviewer Piers Morgan that friends and family had told him "to focus on your dignity and to continue your life, cause if not, probably you are going to damage people you love."

Spain's soccer federation confirmed hours later that Rubiales had submitted his resignation and had also left his position as vice president of UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations.

The furor started immediately following Rubiales' actions at the Women's World Cup final in late August. Following Spain's win in Sydney, Rubiales placed an unsolicited kiss on the mouth of star player Jenni Hermoso, lifted player Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder and carried her around, and made a crotch-grabbing gesture a few feet away from the Queen of Spain and her teenage daughter.

Criticism followed from nearly all sides: Spanish politicians on the right and left. Soccer players around the world, both female and male. FIFA announced a 90-day provisional suspension as it began disciplinary proceedings against him.

Rubiales claimed that the kiss was mutual and consensual, which Hermoso flatly denied — she says she never consented, and was "the victim of aggression." Hermoso has filed a formal complaint against Rubiales, as part of an investigation by Spain's High Court prosecutor into whether Rubiales committed an act of sexual aggression.

The Spanish soccer federation, RFEF, demanded that Rubiales resign, and released a statement "apologizing to the football world" and declaring that Rubiales "has tarnished our national team, our football and our society."

Dozens of top Spanish women's players said they would refuse to play for Spain until its current leaders were removed. Women's national team coach Jorge Vilda, a close ally of Rubiales and unpopular with the team, was dismissed by the federation on Sept. 5. Vilda called the sacking "unfair" and undeserved, coming just two weeks after winning the Women's World Cup.

Montse Tomé was announced as the team's new coach. A former player, Tomé had been an assistant to Vilda since 2018. She will the first woman in the role in Spain.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

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