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Spain's RFEF apologises for Luis Rubiales' scandal; appoints Montse Tome as coach Jorge Vila's replacement

The article discusses the Royal Spanish Football Federation's apology for the controversial kiss incident, the subsequent dismissal of the coach, Jorge Vilda, and the appointment of Montse Tome, along with addressing issues of misogyny in Spanish football.

football Spain RFEF apologises for Luis Rubiales' scandal; appoints Montse Tome as coach Jorge Vila's replacement snt
First Published Sep 6, 2023, 12:00 PM IST

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued an apology on Tuesday for what it described as the "totally unacceptable behaviour" of Luis Rubiales, who had faced backlash for forcibly kissing Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony after Spain's victory over England in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 final on August 20.

In a letter signed by its interim president Pedro Rocha, the RFEF offered its "most sincere apologies... for the totally unacceptable behaviour of its highest institutional representative during the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 and in the moments that followed".

The kiss had drawn widespread condemnation, leading to FIFA's suspension of Rubiales. However, it took more than two weeks for the RFEF to call for Rubiales to step down as its president. Rubiales had refused to resign, defending the kiss as a "just a peck," while Hermoso vehemently denied any consent.

The RFEF acknowledged the significant damage caused to Spanish football, sports, society, and the values of sportsmanship. Their apology extended to FIFA, UEFA, and particularly the players of the Spanish national women's team.

Following the apology, the RFEF announced the dismissal of Jorge Vilda, who had been the coach of the national women's team since 2015. "The RFEF... has decided to dispense with the services of Jorge Vilda as sports director and women's national team coach," the RFEF said in a statement, later naming Montse Tome as his replacement. 

"She will be the first woman to hold the position in Spain," it said of Tome, a former player who has served as the team's assistant coach since 2018.

Vilda's firing was widely anticipated when it was discovered that he had been observed cheering Rubiales after the latter gave a combative speech during which he refused to retire and screamed against 'false feminism'. It was well known that they were close.

The controversy has exposed what opponents claim is a pervasive misogyny throughout Spanish football, and the RFEF stated that his firing was "the first of a string of restructuring measures" aimed at improving governance.

Dismissed unfairly: Vilda

However, Speaking to El Larguero on his dismissal, Vilda felt that the decision made was harsh and unjustified. He also did not foresee it coming.

“I’m as good as you can be after being a world champion. However, I think that I have been dismissed unfairly. I didn’t expect to be sacked. I had already begun preparing my new ideas for the team. I saw myself with strength and desire to coach the team in the Nations League, and at the Olympic Games next year," he said.

Vilda also shared his opinions on Montse Tome's appointment as his successor. “I have congratulated her. She has the ability to do very well in the role. I have left behind a recognisable style of play and an excellent methodology for her to use. Let her take advantage of it. She’s prepared and she’s going to do well," he added.

Vilda had previously faced criticism from 15 national players who refused to wear the La Roja shirt while he remained as coach due to incidents impacting their performance under his leadership.

The RFEF emphasized that Vilda had played a crucial role in the growth of women's football in Spain, leading the team to become world champions and achieve a high FIFA ranking.

The RFEF's initial response to the incident had quoted Hermoso as characterizing the kiss as a "natural gesture of affection and gratitude." However, Rubiales later delivered a defiant speech, leading Hermoso to clarify that the kiss was not consensual and left her feeling vulnerable and victimized.

In its apology, the RFEF stated that Rubiales' post-incident statements were "inappropriate and meaningless" and did not represent the federation's position. The federation expressed its sorrow and embarrassment over the distress caused by Rubiales' actions, asserting that Rubiales was solely responsible for his actions.

The RFEF confirmed it had initiated an investigation into Rubiales' behaviour and pledged to review its policies and procedures to prevent such incidents in the future. They also announced their commitment to improving the governance of the Spanish football federation, with Vilda's dismissal being the first step in this process.

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