Fact check: Luis Rubiales’ interview with Piers Morgan

It came as a surprise to many when Luis Rubiales announced in an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV broadcast on Sunday night that he was resigning from his position as president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF). He then released a statement that exuded everything apart from a hint of self-criticism.

Rubiales’ full chat with Morgan was shown on Tuesday night; an interview almost as embarrassing as the speech the former president gave four days after returning from the Women’s World Cup in Australia.

Once again, the man who is being sued for sexual assault after an unsolicited kiss on Jennifer Hermoso attempted to position himself as the victim in this sorry saga.

The Athletic watched Rubiales’ interview and analysed his key answers…

On the fallout from the incidents that followed Spain’s World Cup final victory…

“For me, I have been outside of this tsunami, but at the same time with my family, I have suffered; with my friends, I have suffered; and a lot of people have been telling lies. And with all these lies, the truth hasn’t surfaced.”

What lies, Mr Rubiales? Didn’t we all see it?

The images of the World Cup final, broadcast all over the globe, were clear: Rubiales threw himself on top of a player who had to steady herself so that his weight didn’t make her buckle and fall to the ground, then he grabbed her face with both hands and planted a kiss without her having time to react or offer any kind of consent.

On celebrating Spain’s victory by grabbing his crotch — for which Rubiales only apologised to the Spanish royal family, who had watched the final alongside him.

“For this I am truly ashamed, more from an internal perspective than anything else. There are no excuses. In Spain, with guys as well as women, there’s an expression which would probably translate to something like, ‘oh my genitals’ (…) So this vulgar expression, basically what it means is: ‘Bravo, well done’. When the final whistle went, (Spain coach) Jorge Vilda looked at me and said, ‘This is for you’, gesturing quite strongly. I gestured back and said, ‘No, no, this is for you, this is for you’, for all the suffering we have had.”

Rubiales said “there are no excuses” for his action but then proceeded to make them, saying he wanted to congratulate the coach, Jorge Vilda, the only male member of the winning team on the pitch. It is well known that the players and the coach did not speak for virtually the entire World Cup, and yet Rubiales thought the players’ triumph belonged to the coach who never knew how to manage such a talented squad.

Vilda with Rubiales after Spain’s World Cup final victory (Photo: Maddie Meyer – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

On the ‘peck’ on Hermoso…

“Of course, I have said it from the beginning, I made a mistake, and I apologised in a sincere manner.

“I was very happy, I felt like another player. But being the president of the association, I have apologised unreservedly, that is not the actions of the president of the association.”

It is worth remembering that ‘from the beginning’ he did not apologise for it, and instead only attempted to justify his actions. He was asked multiple times during his TV interview if he would apologise directly to Hermoso, and refused to do so.

“It was a mutual act, she came towards me, very happy. She lifted me up, she lifted me up in the air… We were both emotional. When we hit the ground, I had a quick conversation with her. We congratulated each other. I gave her a quick peck. I asked her, can I give you a quick peck, which is normal in our country. I think she gave me one or two slaps in my side, she was laughing, and that was it. No intention. Of course no sexual connotation of anything. Just a moment of happiness, just great joy in that moment.”

In her statement on August 25, Hermoso said: “I want to make it clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and, above all, was his kiss ever consensual. I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.”

Hermoso did not lift Rubiales up either. He propelled himself on top of her, causing her to almost lose her balance.

On the celebrations after Spain’s World Cup win….

“Amazing harmony, everyone is happy. I think Latin people, and it’s a cultural question, have that tactile, it’s pretty normal in a Latin world between guys and girls.”

I don’t know in which culture it is normal for your boss to kiss you on the mouth. After working for 10 years in Spain, and having been born there, nobody has done it to me. Never. I don’t kiss my friends or my family on the mouth. This is not a ‘Latin culture’ thing.

More on the kiss…

“I have got three daughters. I have seen the reaction before, during and after. Again, I am going to say that this was all down to a very happy moment, a celebration, a euphoric moment. There was no harm, no sexual context, no aggression, nothing like that.

“As President, once again, I will say… The significance of the kiss to Jenni would have been exactly the same as a kiss to one of my daughters. Between friends and family, that’s very, very common.”

Hermoso did not say the same. She said she felt vulnerable. What she wasn’t counting this time was having so much support after she decided to speak out against Rubiales.

And, again, it is not a “very common” act, which is why so many people have been outraged by what Rubiales did.

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Rubiales grabs Hermoso on the World Cup podium (Photo: Noemi Llamas/Getty Images)

Asked if he would have done the same thing with male players…

“No doubt about it, 100 per cent… when I was a player, there were many moments where we avoided relegation or we got promotion, where we have given what we call pecks on the lips.”

Let’s look back at his last medal haul with male players. This year, Rubiales was at the final of the men’s Spanish Super Cup, held in Saudi Arabia. He was one of those behind taking the competition there, to a country with what Amnesty International have called an “appalling” human rights record. But there he was, giving out medals to Barcelona’s male players — without so much as a ‘peck’, a hug, or any gesture that could be considered misconduct in any way.

On his legacy as president…

“With the job that we’ve done, we’ve invested. We’ve built the budget from three million (euros) up to 27million. The elements of professionality that we’ve given to this team, we’ve got more teams below the national side. It just makes me very, very sad.”

Spain has been overwhelmed by the talent of its players who, thanks to their individual work and that of clubs such as Barcelona, have evolved a lot. The national team did not keep pace with this evolution; so much so that some players felt that they were wasting their time being called up. They didn’t feel professional with the national team.

And then the Spanish federation invested in a nutritionist, in more physiotherapists, in a psychologist, in chartered flights, in fewer hours on the bus after the revolution of ‘the 15’, the players who decided enough was enough last September. Not of their own free will. That is not something to boast about.

On facing criminal charges…

“I am a lawyer, I am a Spanish citizen, I have been through many processes, criminal as well, and nothing has ever stuck… I have full faith that the truth will come out and everything will be fine… Take a look at my face, I am a good guy.”

Rubiales has never been far from accusations of impropriety during his time as president but, he is right, nothing has “ever stuck”. We shall see if it is different this time around.

(Photo: Maja Hitij – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

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