Spain coach Luis de la Fuente apologised on Friday for praising football federation president Luis Rubiales’ speech in which he stated he would not resign.
The apology came after nationwide outrage on Rubiales’ unsolicited kiss on Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso’s lips last week.
“I have to say sorry, I made a mistake, it´s inexcusable,” De la Fuente told a news conference, also confirming he would not resign.
When he forcibly kissed Spain midfielder Hermoso on the cheek during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony in Sydney on August 20, Rubiales, 46, incited fury all around the world.
The head of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) incited more outrage with a belligerent address at an emergency meeting in which he refused to resign in the face of rising criticism and instead railed against “false feminism,” to which De la Fuente cheered.
Hermoso said that Rubiales’ kiss was not consensual and that she felt like the “victim of an assault” despite Rubiales’ insistence that it was.
FIFA, the organisation that oversees international football, temporarily suspended Rubiales for 90 days, and De la Fuente responded by attacking the president in a statement.
De la Fuente’s position, according to several detractors, notably Yolanda Diaz, the second deputy prime minister of Spain, was untenable.
“I received heavy criticism for (applauding) and I think that it´s totally deserved, I understand it, I apologise for it, it was unjustifiable,” said De la Fuente.
“I came to the assembly convinced that we were seeing the goodbye of a president and it turned into the opposite.”
De la Fuente, 62, said the situation generated “emotional stress” and surprised those present.
“I arrived thinking it would be a resignation and we went into shock when we saw it wasn´t like that,” he added.
“I was not at the right level and I could not control my emotions. Later when you look and you see yourself on the cameras… I didn´t recognise myself.”
De la Fuente will “totally” be remaining, according to interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha, who added that he would be seeing women’s team coach Jorge Vilda the following week.
Despite the squad winning the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, reports in Spain claim Vilda may soon be fired.
Due to the Rubiales incident, more than 80 players from the women’s team are currently on strike, while Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias has declared he will not participate in the men’s team.
“I think he will want to come if he is called up, but I always stand for freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of thought,” added De la Fuente, who did not select the forward in his squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers later in September.