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Rubiales to face trial for unwanted kiss at football World Cup

Former Spanish football president Luis Rubiales is to face trial for kissing forward Jenni Hermoso without her consent during the World Cup final awards ceremony in Sydney.

Investigative judge Francisco de Jorge ruled on Thursday that Rubiales’ kiss was “unconsented and carried out unilaterally and in a surprising fashion,” the court said.

State prosecutors accused Rubiales of sexual assault and for allegedly trying to coerce Hermoso to publicly support him in the public backlash against him.

Despite initially claiming he was the victim of a campaign led by “false feminists,” Rubiales eventually resigned from his post for his behaviour in August. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The judge also ruled that along with Rubiales, former Spain coach Jorge Vilda, sports director of Spain’s men’s team Albert Luque, and the federation's former head of marketing Rubén Rivera should be tried for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to defend Rubiales, a step she refused to take.

The trial date will be determined.

Hermoso, Spain's all-time leading scorer who plays in the Mexican league, has been widely supported in the country.

The 33-year-old forward testified before the investigative judge this month.

Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso, center, arrives at the Audiencia Nacional court, in Madrid, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.
Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso, center, arrives at the Audiencia Nacional court, in Madrid, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. - Bernat Armangue/AP

The kiss scandal has many hoping it will spur a reckoning with sexism in Spanish sports.

Based on a sexual consent law passed in 2022, Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if found guilty.

The new law eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault,” sanctioning any unconsented sexual act.

The 46-year-old Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture near Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofia during the celebrations of Spain’s victory, immediately became a national embarrassment.

Hermoso and her teammates refused to keep playing as long as he was in charge and returned to the team only weeks later when the government mediated an agreement by the federation's interim president to overhaul its protocols and give more support to its women’s side.

That included the elimination of the term “women’s” from the official team name.