HomeSportsLuis Rubiales: A look at controversies surrounding former Spanish football federation president

Luis Rubiales: A look at controversies surrounding former Spanish football federation president


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Over the last few months, Luis Rubiales has made the news headlines for all the wrong reasons. It all started with Rubiales kissing Spain’s Jenni Hermoso at the trophy presentation after Spain won the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sydney in August. And that’s a controversy that has been talked about in the football fraternity till date.

On 26 August last year, amid the surrounding controversy, Rubiales had admitted that he would not resign as Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president, only for him to reverse that decision 17 days later and quit as RFEF chief.

“My father, my daughters, I spoke with them… Some friends, very close to me, they say ‘Luis, you have to focus on your dignity and to continue your life, because you know probably that you are going to damage people you love and the sport you love’.

“But this is more a question of not only me, the attitude of me can affect third parties that are very important,” Rubiales told on the Piers Morgan Uncensored show in September last year.

Things would then take a worse turn after Rubiales was
suspended by FIFA
, world football’s governing body, from any football-related activities for three years. So much so that even Rubiales’ mother went on a hunger strike in a church in August last year, saying that she would not eat until “inhumane and bloody persecution” of her son comes to an end.

Jorge Vilda, the Spain women’s team coach, was also sacked by RFEF in September, courtesy his connections with Rubiales. In September 2022, 15 players had written to the RFEF threating to boycott if Vilda was not sacked as head coach, alleging poor management of player injuries, locker room atmosphere and team selections.  Rubiales backed Vilda in this and even threatened players denying to obey with five years ban. On 28 August, interim president Pedro Rocha then called for the decision to sack Vilda during a meeting of regional FA heads.

Messages between Rubiales and Pique

Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly the next hub for global football, and in April last year, Luis Rubiales was responsible for moving the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia and expanding it to a four-team tournament.

In April 2022, Rubiales gave a press conference after audio messages between him and Pique were leaked. Pique was still playing for FC Barcelona at that time and those voice notes exchanged between the two had details of how the Spanish Super Cup was moved to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, Rubiales had termed this as the “Supercopa of equality” and while there was pressure building up, nothing was going to stop Rubiales from holding the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

And so it did. The 2019-20 Super Cup was held in January 2020 in Jeddah, with Valencia, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid competing. Real Madrid had beaten Atletico 4-1 on penalties, after the score was 0-0 after extra time. Since then, three editions of the Super Cup have been held in Saudi Arabia with the 2020-21 edition being held in Spain.

Spanish police had raided the residence of Luis Rubiales in Granada last week. Reuters

Rubiales, however, is not out of the woods just yet. Last week, Spanish police raided RFEF offices and the residence of Rubiales in Granada, while arresting six people. And on Wednesday, it was reported that Spanish prosecutors were
seeking two-and-a half years jail term
for the controversial kiss of the Spanish player last year.

Julen Lopetegui sacking

Julen Lopetegui was the manager of Spain when he was announced as the Real Madrid head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season. It was a FIFA World Cup year and Julen’s sacking as Spain manager just two days before came as a shock to the footballing fraternity across the world.

Rubiales was the president of RFEF at the time of Lopetegui’s sacking. “We have been obliged to fire the national coach,” Rubiales, who was less than a month into the role as Spanish football federation president, had said.

Rubiales, however, stated that he had not been informed by Julen about negotiating with Real Madrid to become their next coach. Julen, on the hand, had signed to become Real Madrid coach after the FIFA World Cup.

“We wish him the best, he has done an excellent job in getting us to the tournament. But the federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have; the World Cup is the biggest of all,” added Rubiales.

Fernando Hierro was then named the Spanish team head coach, and Spain had a forgettable World Cup that year, going out to hosts Russia in the round of 16 via penalties.

Levante players’ strike

Luis Rubiales was crucial to Levante’s promotion to LaLiga. He played 54 games for Levante between 2004-05 and 2007-08. And it was at this time when Levante’s players were nit getting paid and Rubiales led a players’ strike against the unpaid wages.

That was a success though, for Rubiales and the rest of Levante’s players received three quarters of their salary after over a year of not getting paid.

Rubiales would then go onto become the president of the Spanish players’ union, the AFE, between 2010 and 2017. As a president of the AFE, Rubiales called two national players strikes, one in 2011 and the other in 2015, and was in charge for the formation of a fund to cover unpaid salaries.

However, not all was good for Rubiales at the AFE as well. The then marketing and commercial director of AFE, Tamara Ramos, had claimed she quit the AFE, after being “publicly humiliated” by Rubiales. The RFEF, however, had accused Ramos “taking advantage of the current media climate”.

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