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Luis Rubiales, the Spanish football chief, has resigned from his post days after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against him over alleged sexual assault for kissing a female player at the World Cup.
In a statement late on Sunday, Rubiales said he had submitted his resignation as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, a role from which he had already been suspended for 90 days by Fifa, the game’s governing body, as condemnation of his conduct mounted.
“After the swift suspension by Fifa, plus the rest of the proceedings against me, it is clear that I will not be able to return to my position,” Rubiales said. Claiming he was facing “unconscionable persecution”, he added: “I will defend my honour. I will defend my innocence.”
His announcement came three weeks after he sparked outrage by taking Spanish player Jenni Hermoso by the head and kissing her on the lips during the World Cup medals ceremony following Spain’s victory over England in the final in Sydney.
Rubiales’ actions have turned him into the world’s most talked-about sports boss and stirred anger about the treatment of women in global football and the prevalence of machismo in Spanish society.
Hermoso has said he kissed her against her will. She opened the way for prosecutors to file a criminal complaint against him at Spain’s national high court on Friday by filing her own complaint over the kiss on September 6.
Prosecutors also accused Rubiales of “coercion”, saying that Hermoso says she and her friends and family were “under constant and repeated pressure from Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to justify” his actions.
Rubiales, who says the kiss was consensual, said in the statement: “I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power to make it prevail.”
He added: “My daughters, my family and the people who love me have suffered the effects of unconscionable persecution, as well as many falsehoods, but it is also true that on the streets, more and more every day, the truth is prevailing.”
They were Rubiales’ first public comments since an angry speech in the week after the World Cup final in which he said “I will not resign” and declared himself a victim of “false feminism”, words that turned many in football against him who had been equivocating. That speech was followed by a statement from Rubiales’ team threatening legal action against Hermoso.
In the Sunday statement he said: “Insisting on waiting and clinging on is not going to contribute to anything positive, neither for the federation nor for Spanish football. Among other reasons, because there are powers that be that will prevent my return.”