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La Roja

They may’ve won the World Cup, but gender equality went into overtime.

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Luis Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso, August 20, 2023
Sunday Morning / August 27, 2023

The president of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales, came under fire on Sunday for kissing forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England in the World Cup final in Sydney.

On Thursday, FIFA, the governing body of soccer, opened a disciplinary case against Rubiales to weigh if or whether he violated “the basic rules of decent conduct” or “behaved in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

The kiss—delivered on stage during the official post-match ceremony—was captured on camera and prompted posts of rebuke on social media. While Jenni Hermoso lamented on Instagram that “I didn’t like it but what can I do” she released the following official statement:

It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings. 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.

Rubiales brushed off any suggestion that the act was inappropriate, too. “It was a kiss between two friends celebrating something,” he told the broadcaster COPE, dismissing those who saw it differently as “idiots and stupid people.”

This includes, apparently, Spain’s Minister of Equality Irene Montero who described it as “a form of sexual violence that we women suffer on a daily basis and until now has been invisible.” The Socialist politician Adrián Barbon characterized it as an “absolute lack of respect,” and Marta Lois, a spokesperson for the leftwing coalition, Sumar, weighed in with a keen sense of the obvious. “In the hundreds of celebrations that we’ve seen between Rubiales and male players, he didn’t grab any of them by the head in order to give them a kiss.”

Spain's Sports Minister Miquel Iceta concluded: ”The first thing he has to do is to give explanations and make apologies, it is the logical and reasonable thing to do."

While gender issues are a powerful topic, Spain ranked 17 out of 146 countries in the Gender Equality Index, according to the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report by World Economic Forum. The United States is 43; The United Kingdom is 22; Iceland remains Number One. Comparing the two sexes on issues such as health > knowledge > money > work > and power brings Spain up to 6 within the European Union.

Is it due to 44% of Spain’s seats in parliament being held by women; or because 47% of Spain’s labor force is commandeered by women; or maybe its because 2.9% of Spanish women aged 15-49 spoke up and reported unwanted physical and/or sexual violence by their employer last year?

On Thursday, Rubiales defiantly told an emergency general assembly of the federation “I won’t resign” four times in quick succession and claimed he was a victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists.”

Beyond Greatness

The official slogan for the 2023 Women's World Cup, Beyond Greatness, took on administrative bio when Spain’s Higher Council of Sports pledged to investigate if Rubiales had broken Spain’s sports law or the federation’s own code of conduct that sanction sexist acts. If yes, Rubiales will be declared unfit to hold his office by Spain’s Administrative Court for Sports. Rubiales grabbing his crotch in a victory gesture with Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year old Princess Sofía standing nearby are among the many complaints.

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The president of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales

Can Trickle-Down Feminism cancel Trickle-Down Sexism? The FIFA Women's World Cup is an international association football competition contested by the senior women's national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport's international governing body.

Since 1991, the competition has been held every four years and one year after the men's FIFA World Cup. The Women's prize pool this year was US$110 million. The Men’s prize pot in 2022 was US$440 million.

At previous tournaments, FIFA paid total prize money to the national associations, but for the 2023 Women's World Cup it was set to award prize payments directly to players as well as the associations. This came as a result of reports in the women's game that a number of national associations were withholding competition prize money from players and/or not paying them at all.

In March 2023, global player union FIFPRO sent a letter signed by players from around the world to FIFA, challenging FIFA to make prize money in the men's and women's tournaments equal and to ensure at least 30% of prize money in the women's tournament made it to the players. While FIFA did not match the prize money of the men's tournament, it has publicly declared that it wants to see equal World Cup prize money by 2027.

Just before the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced that the player payments would still be paid to the associations, and that FIFA planned to audit the associations to make sure the money got to the players. Football administrator Lise Klaveness expressed concern over what she felt sounded like reneging on the promise, both for the players and for FIFA's credibility. During the tournament, Infantino admitted that FIFA had simply made recommendations to associations on how much to pay players, and ultimately did not have oversight.

Never Say Die

In Australia, the 2023 Women's World Cup had a profound influence on national culture. The Matildas' motto “never say die’ was a fight of perseverance not only seen in the way they played on the field, but also in all of the things they achieved off of it, i.e., collective bargaining agreements and equal pay.

For the first time, more kits representing the Australian women’s team (Matildas) were sold than for the national men's team (the Socceroos), and by the end of the tournament Matildas’ brand had increased fivefold, making them Australia’s most valuable sporting team. Former professional soccer player Craig Foster writes: "We are not so much watching a national team compete, as a changing nation at play.” Citing the Matildas' performance for "overturning misconceptions of women’s sport” the Australian government pledged $200 million to improve women's sporting facilities.

Now is All

If Gender Equality is measured by access to resources and opportunities in the economy then game, set and match Matilda. Whats it’s not and never has or will be is men and women, boys and girls, marginalizing one another simply to live their dream, realize their destiny, and own the moment. The 2022 Men's World Cup motto "Now is All" reminds us that more than two dozen FIFA officials and their associates were implicated in a 24-year self-enrichment scheme that reached the highest levels of FIFA management, including and climaxing in the games in Qatar.

Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, offers perspective, "Rubiales’ attempt to apologize is unconvincing, and he must continue taking further steps to be held accountable."

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Spaniards celebrate La Roja winning Women's World Cup

Two billion people around the world tuned in to watch Spain shred England’s left side and force turnover after turnover after turnover when only 1.5 billion showed up for the men's game.

The financial objective is an additional $330 million in 2027, and to level-set the prize money in the men and women's game. It's FIFA's professed goal; gender equality's endgame; and possibly even the future of coed professional sports.

Emancipating mixed doubles from professional volleyball, badminton, and tennis courts onto competitive level playing fields in the Big Four is very simply an idea whose day and time has come. If the highly decorated Haley Carter and Pat Tillman can fight alongside one another in Iraq, they probably could've held their own on a football field.

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