President’s bizarre World Cup kiss goes viral; defiant Spain tweet roasted

Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales has been widely criticised for kissing Spain star Jenni Hermoso on the lips in an inappropriate celebration of the nation’s Women’s World Cup Final triumph over England in Sydney on Sunday night.

Rubiales was on stage with Spain’s Queen Letizia to distribute medals to the winners of the tournament when the incident occurred.

“I didn’t like it,” said Hermoso on an Instagram live stream post-game.

Social media was also awash with confusion and outrage at the president’s actions.

On Radio Marca, Rubiales responded to the backlash, describing the incident as: “two people showing each other a minor show of affection,” adding that “this idiocy should be ignored”.

Hermoso added further comments in a statement circulated by the Spanish football federation that it was a “natural gesture of affection”.

“It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings,” said Hermoso.

“The president and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”

Spanish journalist Anna Carreau added: “I don’t remember Rubiales celebrating like that with Jordi Alba when Spain won the Nations League…”

Spanish TV presenter Claudya Carolina labelled Rubiales’ actions as “unpresentable” and “excessive.”

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RFEF post-game tweet divides opinion as controversial head coach guides Spain to World Cup 

Pre-game, there were boos for Spain boss Jorge Vilda. But at the final whistle, the Spaniard had a winner’s medal around his neck, and the World Cup trophy in his hands.

Vilda took Spain to a first-ever Women’s World Cup triumph off the back of a turbulent tournament build-up, with 15 players staging a mutiny prior to the campaign beginning. These players, dubbed ‘Las 15’, refused to play under the Spain head coach; three of those players eventually returned to the fold, including the tournament’s Golden Ball winner Aitana Bonmati.

In September of 2022, those 15 players asked the federation not to be called up due to physical and emotional health concerns, asking for Vilda to be replaced. 

The controversial head coach received the full backing of the federation with this post-game tweet:

The response was vehement: 

But for all the drama away from the football itself, Vilda had his side dominating on the field as he took the nation to an historic World Cup title. One of the major pre-game talking points was Vilda’s decision to drop two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas to the bench in favour of teenager Barcelona star Salma Paralluelo – a decision Network Seven’s Heather Garriock labelled as a masterstroke. 

“Talk about pressure. Gee, (do) you put the Ballon d’Or winner and start her over Paralluela? No he didn’t,” Garriock said. 

“He was brave. He was bold. He started the youngster – and look how good she was. She was so athletic up there, she caused so many problems. I don’t think England were ready for her. It was fantastic to see just how hard she made it for the English.

“She’s a very different Spanish player: she’s so physical, and that’s what I don’t think the English (were) up for it. They thought Putellas would start up front, and Hermoso. I think it’s a tactical masterstroke from Vilda.”

‘Complete player’ takes home Golden Ball – and her message is inspiring

Aitana Bonmati had a tournament to remember – and she capped it off with the Golden Ball. The silky Spanish midfielder was one of three players who reintegrated into the Spanish squad after standing down in late September due to widespread unrest in the squad under Vilda’s leadership.

But throughout the tournament, Bonmati shone; the Golden Ball at the end of it all capped off a dream year for the Barcelona midfielder, which included winning the Liga F, the Women’s Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup at club level, as well as being named the best player in the 2022-23 Champions League campaign.

Having watched her compatriot Alexia Putellas win back-to-back Ballon d’Or’s, Bonmati will figure as a heavy favourite for the 2023 edition of the award – and after lifting the World Cup trophy and the Golden Ball, she was quick to pay homage to the trailblazing women who came before her, and her team of champions, to make all of the scenes we’ve seen at the 2023 edition of the World Cup possible.

“I’m on the air right now,” she said. “I don’t have any words. For this moment, it’s unbelievable.

“Everyone knew the goal at the beginning of the preparation of the tournament. Everyone is competitive. Everyone has a strong mentality to win. We have been working a lot of years for this moment, and we have it. We have the trophy.

“First of all, (thanks to) all my family for supporting me every moment of my life.

“Also, I want to remember all the women who have been pushing and fighting over the years, because (now) we have better conditions. This is for them.”

Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight praised Bonmati for taking that moment, so soon after becoming a World Cup winner, to think of all those who have come before her in women’s football.

“It’s such a strong message,” said Kellond-Knight on Channel 7. 

“The way she thanked all the strong women in her life, it’s amazing. Everyone that has come before her as well in the football community. 

“She’s been class. I called it after I saw her play two games in this tournament, I said: player of the tournament. I think a lot of people would join me on that… she’s certainly showed how great she is, and she’s certainly above everyone at the moment.”

“(She’s a) Complete player. Complete midfielder,” added Socceroos great John Aloisi. 

“Very Spanish-like, they’ve always got time on the ball, they might take two touches and move the ball quickly and then when she has to carry it to draw someone out, she’s able to accelerate when she needs to.

“She’s just one of those players that doesn’t really ever get caught on the ball, and she creates so much.”

Bonmati is a product of Barcelona’s esteemed La Masia; the academy that launched the careers of a generation of male Barcelona legends who lifted the men’s World Cup title with Spain in 2010.

Seven players from that men’s squad played for Barcelona at the time, as opposed to the nine in the current women’s squad.

“La Masia is famous for producing Barcelona players like Xavi, Iniesta in the men’s – and now they’re producing (them) in the women’s,” added Aloisi. “(Jenni) Hermoso, Bonmati, they were sensational tonight. Putellas only came on late, but they just calmed it down as well.”