Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez greeted the country’s Women’s World Cup champions at the presidential palace, Moncloa, on Tuesday – but later criticised the president of the Football Federation.
‘You have achieved something very important. The girls who watch you see football as a place where they can develop athletically and personally,’ Sánchez said, while posing for a group photo with the team and coaching staff.
‘The 21st century will be the century of women on all fronts, and the century of effective equality between men and women,’ he added.
He said the team members would be awarded Spain’s golden medal of sports achievement in honour of their victory.
Players and staff landed late on Monday in Madrid after a flight from Sydney, where Spain beat England 1-0 in Sunday’s final. They were greeted by thousands in the Spanish capital in a celebration that lasted until past midnight.
Gender equality and women’s rights have been cornerstones of Sánchez’s left-leaning government. But Spain’s Women’s World Cup success has been somewhat marred by the forced kiss on the lips that the president of the football federation, Luis Rubiales, gave to player Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony following the final.
The incident caused an international outcry and several acting ministers of Sánchez’s government had already asked Rubiales for explanations. Acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz had said Rubiales ‘has harassed and assaulted’ a woman and called for his resignation. ALSO READ: Calls for Spain’s football chief to resign after kissing player on lips.
‘What we saw is unacceptable,’ Sánchez himself said later on Tuesday. ‘And the apologies offered by Mr. Rubiales are not sufficient, I would call them inappropriate, so he must continue taking further steps to clarify what we all saw.’
Rubiales had accompanied the team and staff to the meeting with Sánchez, who greeted him with a handshake.
After claiming that those who criticised his kiss were ‘idiots and stupid people’, Rubiales was forced to apologise in a video on Monday.
‘It was done without any ill intention in a moment of the highest exuberance. Here we saw it as natural and normal but outside it has caused a commotion,’ he said.
‘I have no choice but to apologise and to learn from this … and when representing the federation take more care,’ he said, adding that he thought the furore was ‘idiotic’.
Rubiales was at the team greeting with Sánchez. During the celebrations on Monday in the capital, Hermoso avoided commenting on the incident.
‘We’re world champions, aren’t we?’ she said. ‘Right now I think it’s too much.’