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Spain women champs won't play until soccer boss ousted


Dozens of members of the Spanish women's national soccer team say they won't play for the country until Luis Rubiales is removed as the national federation chief.

Their move follows Rubiales' refusal to quit earlier on Friday over his behaviour after Spain's World Cup final triumph in Australia when he kissed one of the players, Jenni Hermoso, on the lips.

Hermoso said on Friday that 'in no moment' did she consent to the kiss by Spanish federation president Rubiales as anger increased among players and government ministers who decried his actions as unacceptable misogynist behaviour.

A total of 56 players, including Hermoso and all of the World Cup-winning 23-strong side, signed a joint statement sent via their FUTPRO union demanding the removal of the federation leadership.

"I won't resign," Luis Rubiales declared four times in quick succession at an emergency general assembly of the federation on Friday.

The 46-year-old, who was also chastised for grabbing his crotch after Spain's 1-0 victory over England on Sunday, is under immense pressure to leave his post after he grasped Hermoso during the awards ceremony in Sydney.

Criticism has steadily mounted. Spain's acting prime minister, players unions, players for Spain's women's team, and some players on men's teams have said he must go.

Several Spanish news media outlets had reported Rubiales would step down. Instead, he remained defiant Friday, claiming before the federation's assembly that the kiss was "mutual and with the consent" of Hermoso and that he is the victim of a witch hunt by "false feminists."

He was applauded by the overwhelming male assembly.

While Rubiales held his ground, federation vice president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women's soccer, announced that he was resigning, followed by at least two other federation members. Del Amo had urged Rubiales to also resign.

Among those supporting Rubiales were women's national team coach Jorge Vilda and men's national team coach Luis de la Fuente.

Hermoso had said in a video streamed on social media after the kiss that "I didn't like it, but what can I do?" Later, her players union issued a statement on her behalf saying that it would defend her interests and ensure that the act "does not go unpunished."

In his speech to the assembly on Friday, Rubiales said Hermoso "lifted me up" in a celebratory gesture and he asked her for "a little kiss?" and she "said yes."

"The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters," Rubiales said.

Hermoso contradicted Rubiales' version in a statement issued later through her FUTRPO players' union.

She said "in no moment did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no moment did I try to pick up the president.

"I won't tolerate anyone putting in doubt my word and even more so that anyone invents words that I did not say."

Rubiales said he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence. One of them was acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take "urgent measures."

"Impunity for macho actions is over," Díaz said. "Rubiales cannot continue in office."