Spanish Olympics chief says Rubiales kiss scandal an 'isolated incident'

MADRID: The head of Spain's Olympic Committee on Friday said the actions of football federation chief Luis Rubiales, who unleashed a furore by grabbing and kissing a female footballer, were an "isolated incident" that did not represent Spanish sport as a whole.

Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into whether Rubiales might have committed an act of sexual aggression when he grabbed player Jenni Hermoso's head and kissed her on the mouth after Spain's victory in the women's World Cup in Sydney on Aug. 20.

"Our sports are admired all over the world. It is unacceptable that an isolated incident should take the limelight away from our sportsmen and women," Spanish Olympic Committee President Alejandro Blanco told a news conference in Madrid.

"I refuse to accept that the image of a complicated, difficult moment, which should never have happened, should distort the reality of Spanish sport," he added.

The fallout from the kiss has become a "Me Too" moment in Spain, unleashing anger that had been building for years, and triggering a torrent of allegations from other women in football of predatory behaviour by men.

Blanco said the gestures by Rubiales - whom he described as a personal friend - were "inappropriate, unacceptable" and could not be tolerated.

Aside from the kiss, Rubiales also drew criticism for grabbing his genitals while celebrating the team's win from the VIP box next to Spain's Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter.

Blanco added that he had advised Rubiales in a phone call after the final to apologise, highlight the success for Spanish women's football and offer his resignation.

"I believe that (resigning) would have been a coherent gesture, one that the whole of society would understand and the best gesture that could be made to show repentance," he said.

However, a defiant Rubiales took to the stage at the federation's emergency assembly on Aug. 25 and refused to quit, promising to "fight until the end." FIFA suspended him for three months on Saturday. --REUTERS

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