Head of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales, kissed midfielder Jennifer Hermoso on the lips
Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales remains defiant in the face of the growing controversy triggered by his kissing star player Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory. Despite all 23 members of the victorious squad, Hermoso included, and 32 additional team members, saying they won’t participate in international matches as long as Rubiales continues to lead the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the government condemning what’s being labelled as ‘macho actions’ and Hermoso herself refuting Rubiales’ claim that the kiss was consensual, and instead, describing herself as a victim of aggression, Rubiales is firm about not resigning, decrying what he calls attempts by ‘false feminists’ to harm him.
FIFA has suspended Luis Rubiales for 90 days pending investigation.
We reached out to sportspersons and coaches to define the limits of acceptable behaviour. Read on for a cross-section of views.
‘Ethics and code of conduct are taught in sports’
As coaching or support staff, match official, board member or office bearer, one needs to follow a proper code of conduct, especially in front of the public or media. Without consent, one cannot touch another person, especially players. These ethics and codes of conduct have been taught in all sports courses, especially courses relating to coaching, umpiring and fitness. This is also applicable to people who work behind scenes, such as office bearers and board members.
— Vijay Boddupalli, Performance Analyst
‘A big no to crossing lines’
Boundaries should be respected not just in professional life but also in the personal context. No one has right to publicly humiliate anyone because of position or power. It’s petrifying for a woman to handle such a situation in front of the media. Experiencing like that leaves one in a state of discomfort and fear. Any behaviour is acceptable only if the other person involved is comfortable with it.
— Prachi Tehlan, actor and former Basketball player and Netball captain
‘It depends on each individual’
I am personally of the opinion that the Rubiales-Hermoso incident is for them to handle and we as outsiders cannot decide who is right or wrong. In the arena of sports, and in fact in any industry, boundaries vary from relationship to relationship. The way we express our happiness or sadness to those we love or are close to differ from the way we do so to acquaintances. So, each individual needs to decide his or her boundary, in terms of relationship/rapport, and maintain dignity. Having said, that of course a basic degree of decency and respect is expected from all players. As individuals, we should all know our boundaries and adhere to them.
— Parupalli Kashyap, badminton player
‘At times, victims are silenced’
Exploiting a position of power in the guise of exuberance is totally unacceptable. Actually, it is unacceptable even if it’s not done from a position of power. If Hermoso had not publicly objected on Insta or even in private, does that make it acceptable?
Imagine if she were silenced, restrained, or constrained due to her vulnerability. Such situations are common in sports and showbiz. It can be assumed that victims are often silenced because after all, careers are at stake. Often, even parents choose to look the other way or are influenced by the lure of success or the fear of being a ‘spoilsport.’The Rubiales-Hermoso situation was public, but one can well imagine the number of instances that are brushed under the carpet because of a limited or zero audience, leaving the victim unheard.
The Spanish people, FIFA, and players have responded forcefully, but what will be interesting to see is how this power play pans out. This incident will expose character and serve as a clear watershed regarding acceptable behaviour both in and out of the public eye. Hopefully!
— Suheim Sheikh, Sailing Coach & Founder, YCH Sports Foundation