BARCELONA – Spain’s men’s coach Luis de la Fuente said on Monday that he “respects” former football federation president Luis Rubiales’ decision to resign after causing outrage by kissing a Women’s World Cup player on the lips.
Rubiales stood down from his post on Sunday, three weeks after forcibly kissing midfielder Jennifer Hermoso after Spain won the World Cup in Sydney on Aug 20.
The incident provoked unprecedented uproar and Rubiales, who initially refused to resign, was provisionally suspended by world governing body Fifa for 90 days, while a judge at the country’s top criminal court opened an investigation into him earlier on Monday.
Since a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a criminal category that groups together all types of sexual violence.
The penalties for a forced kiss can range from a fine to four years in prison, according to sources from the public prosecutor’s office.
“(I have) maximum respect for the decision of Luis Rubiales,” de la Fuente told a news conference ahead of Spain’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Cyprus in Granada on Tuesday.
The coach, 62, did not want to talk in detail about the scandal during which he, too, was criticised for applauding when Rubiales pledged not to resign in a fiery defensive speech.
He kept his job after an apology but controversial women’s coach Jorge Vilda was axed in the fallout.
De la Fuente added that he and his team wanted to focus on football and did not know any details about the process of electing a successor to Rubiales.
“I think that the calmer we professionals are, the better,” he said.
“I don’t know about (election) times, we will keep thinking about football, football and football.
“If God wants it, we’ll be working at Euro 2024 and only thinking about that.”
He also looked displeased when asked if he felt the need to send a message to Rubiales, who hired him in December.
“I have been working at the RFEF (Spain’s football federation) for 11 years. I have lived a long time before Luis Rubiales arrived,” de la Fuente said.
“I am a football coach. Nobody has gifted me anything, I have earned it.
“I am grateful to all the people who have helped me throughout my life.
“And, no, I have not spoken to him.”
On the pitch, Spain thrashed Georgia 7-1 in Tbilisi last Friday and are second, nine points behind Group A leaders Scotland (15) but with two games in hand. AFP
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