Jennifer Hermoso, the Spanish soccer star who received an unsolicited kiss on the mouth after her team won the World Cup, gave evidence in Spain’s National Court Tuesday morning against Luis Rubiales, the former Spanish former soccer boss who is being investigated over allegations of sexual assault and coercion in connection with the episode.
Ms. Hermoso’s testimony concludes the high-profile criminal inquiry of Mr. Rubiales, which was opened days after the World Cup, which took place in Sydney, Australia, in August.
A judge, Francisco de Jorge, must now decide whether to charge Mr. Rubiales or to close the case. If Judge de Jorge concludes there is evidence of wrongdoing, Mr. Rubiales will face trial on a sexual assault charge — punishable with between one and four years in prison. Mr. Rubiales and three executives at the soccer federation, including the former coach, Jorge Vilda, may also face charges of coercion after they were accused of exerting pressure on Ms. Hermoso to show support for Mr. Rubiales.
Mr. Rubiales has denied the charges, saying that it was nothing more than a “peck.”
On Tuesday morning, Ms. Hermoso was the last in a string of Spanish sporting celebrities to give evidence. The list of witnesses summoned by Judge de Jorge reads like the “Who’s Who” of Spanish soccer, with stars such as Alexia Putellas, the current Best FIFA Women’s Player; Misa Rodríguez, the goalkeeper for Real Madrid; and Irene Paredes, Barcelona’s star defender. Several football association executives have also given their versions of events, as have Mr. Vilda, Ms. Hermoso’s brother and Mr. Rubiales himself.
Ms. Hermoso spoke to the press outside Spain’s National Court after her appearance. “All is in the hands of justice,” she said, seemingly at ease.
What exactly she or the other witnesses disclosed to Judge de Jorge has not been made public officially as the hearings have been held behind closed doors. But shortly after Ms. Hermoso left court this morning, the Spanish prosecutor’s office issued a statement confirming that she had testified that “the kiss was unexpected and at no point consented.”
The prosecutor’s statement also highlights “the constant harassment” experienced by Ms. Hermoso on the journey home to Spain from Australia in August, and how it “altered her normal life, producing a situation of distress and sadness.”
Almost half a year after the Spanish women’s World Cup victory was eclipsed by the behavior of Mr. Rubiales, Ms. Hermoso’s profile continues to rise.
Her recent performance on the field was instrumental in a Nations League victory against Italy, keeping alive the Spanish team’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Paris. Earlier this week, Ms. Hermoso signed a deal with the Mexican club, Tigres UANL. Reports in the Spanish press put a six-figure number to the contract, big money in women’s soccer. The minimum salary for Spanish league players is a mere 21,000 euros, or about $23,000, compared with 180,000 euros, or about $197,000, for their male counterparts.
Ms. Hermoso was also chosen by Spanish broadcaster TVE to co-present the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Mr. Rubiales, on the contrary, has almost disappeared from public life in Spain. Claiming to be a victim of “false feminism,” he has maintained that Ms. Hermoso initiated the kiss. But in October last year, soccer’s global governing body barred him from the sport for three years. As he awaits Judge de Jorge’s decision, Mr. Rubiales is also being investigated by anti-corruption prosecutors over irregularities in the use of federation funds.