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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Spanish federation chief refuses to resign over kiss scandal

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Spanish soccer boss Luis Rubiales refused to quit on Friday for kissing World Cup star Jenni Hermoso on the lips after Spain’s World Cup victory, fuelling anger among players and government ministers who decried his actions as unacceptable macho behaviour.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Rubiales complained that “false feminists” were “trying to kill me”.

He described the kiss as a “little peck” that was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual”.

“Is a consensual peck going to take me out of here? I won’t resign. I will fight until the end,” Rubiales said, drawing applause from the predominantly male audience.

Criticism of Rubiales’s behaviour has built throughout the week. The incident occurred while the players were being handed their medals after they beat England 1-0 in the World Cup final in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday.

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As players filed past, Rubiales grabbed Hermoso by the head and planted a kiss on her mouth.

The government confirmed on Friday it will take the incident before a sport tribunal where, if it can be proven the kiss was non-consensual, he could be tried under a sexual violence law introduced by the ruling Socialists last year.

Rubiales’ speech at the RFEF assembly drew immediate condemnation from acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, who described it as “unacceptable”.

“The government must act and take urgent measures: impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office,” Diaz wrote on social media.

Acting Equality Minister Irene Montero said the state prosecutor and the state-run sport council (CSD) should act to protect Hermoso.

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Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting sexual abuse and violence.

The Socialist-led coalition government has presided over a raft of legal reforms, including around equal pay, abortion, sex work and transgender rights.

Rubiales, 46, said in his speech that it was Hermoso who initiated physical contact by lifting him off the ground by his hips. He said he asked Hermoso if he could give her “a little peck” and she said “OK”.

Full footage of the medal awards ceremony was not broadcast on Spanish television.

“This is unacceptable. It´s over. We´re with you, teammate Jenni Hermoso,” her teammate Alexia Putellas said on X.

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Some male players also protested. Borja Iglesias of Real Betis, who last played for Spain in 2022, said on X he would not put himself forward for selection for the national team “until things change and these kinds of acts don’t remain unpunished”.

At the event on Sunday, Rubiales was also seen grabbing his crotch in celebration while standing next to Queen Letizia in a box at the stadium, for which he apologized on Friday.

FIFA opened disciplinary procedures against him on Thursday after Hermoso said in a statement her union was working to defend her interests and that such acts should “never go unpunished”.

The football players union FIFPro said in a statement it had written to UEFA, where Rubiales is vice president, requesting that it also start disciplinary proceedings.

“I am embarrassed by the shame that it continues to be for Spanish football to have a president of the (RFEF) who continues to cling to office,” FIFPro President David Aganzo said.

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Three members of the assembly interviewed by Reuters as they left Friday’s meeting said they were caught by surprise as they had expected Rubiales to resign.

The members from Galicia and Andalusia, who declined to give their names, said they felt the issue was overblown, a sentiment they said was shared by most of the members present. Only about half of the membership was present.

Rubiales met with key federation members shortly before the assembly and told them about his plans not to resign, according to a federation source.

The only person who objected was Rafael del Amo, president of the national committee for women’s football, who said he would step down from his roles, which also included the vice presidency of the federation.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Flamingos hammer hosts Liberia 4-1, put one leg in World Cup finals

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FIFA World Cup bronze medallists Nigeria routed Liberia 4-1 in a fast-paced FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying round, first leg encounter in Monrovia on Sunday.

The Flamingos got off to a pretty quick start at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex at the Paynesville, but the Liberian girls, who shocked Senegal on the away-goal rule to reach this final round, warded off the early threats.

Nigeria got the ball into the net after 14 minutes, but Chadian referee Lare Lamngar ruled it off. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the Flamingos poured forward once again, and in the 19th minute, Shakirat Moshood opened the scoring from a sweet solo run.

Peace Effiong, who got a brace in the 6-0 defeat of Burkina Faso at the MKO Abiola National Stadium last month, scored in the 29th minute to put a wedge of respect between the two teams.

Usual suspect Harmony Chidi, scorer of six of the 12 goals that sank the Central African Republic, and who equally netted four in the 7-1 dismissal of Burkina Faso in the last round, headed home her 11th goal of the qualifying series in the 36th minute to put daylight between both teams.

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On resumption, Nigeria continued to dominate, and substitute Blessing Ifitezue made it four with 16 minutes left.

Liberia scored a consolation goal with five minutes left, from the penalty spot, through Yassah Gwaikolo, after substitute Onyedikachi Ekezie was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.

The Flamingos will return to Nigeria on Tuesday, and immediately commence preparations for the return leg encounter scheduled for Friday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

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