“I felt vulnerable and the victim of aggression, an impulsive, sexist act and without any kind of consent on my part,” Jennifer Hermoso stressed in a statement on her Twitter account. Then she added in bold: “I just wasn’t respected.” As if the image that half the planet had seen on television had not been too explicit, the top scorer in the history of La Roja was forced to denounce that the words of the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, “explaining the unfortunate incident” are “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he himself has generated.” And she continued: “The kiss was not consented to or to my liking.” “A little bit?” I asked him. ‘Okay’, he answered me”, the leader had declared.
Days before, the soccer player, as she herself explained, had been tried to convince her to “make a joint statement to reduce the pressure on the president.” The pressure, in any case, was not only for Hermoso. “The RFEF pressured my environment (family, friends, colleagues, etc.) to give a testimony that had little or nothing to do with my feelings,” the forward continued. “Attitudes like this have been part of the day-to-day life of our team for years,” recalled Hermoso, who minutes before had sent a statement signed jointly by all the world champions who were joined by historic Spanish soccer players.
Soccer said enough in Spain, united as few times before, to dismantle Rubiales’ allegation and express “its firm and resounding condemnation of behaviors that have violated the dignity of women.” And, in case their position was not clear, the players sentenced: “The signatories will not return to the selection while the current leaders continue.”
The union of the world champions after Rubiales’ harassment of Hermoso is not by chance. The alliance had begun during the World Cup, precisely with Hermoso as one of the protagonists. Although Jorge Vilda tried to hide it, the leadership in the Spanish dressing room was up to Irene Paredes, Alexia Putellas and Hermoso. The old guard of La Roja, in the past captains, now relegated by the coach’s decision after the three soccer players publicly supported the 15 players who had asked not to be called up to the national team. However, Vilda relied on the Paredes, Hermoso and Putellas ancestry to unite a fragile group after the division that had been generated after Florentino Pérez forced the Madrid players not to support the revolt last September.
The World Cup photo was starred by Hermoso and Putellas, embracing on the bench after beating the Netherlands. “They have always had a very special relationship,” defined Marisa Fuentes, mother of Hermoso, the link between her daughter and Alexia. Further distanced in the recent past, Putellas and Hermoso were reunited at the World Cup. They got on the final podium with the shirts exchanged. Beautiful with that of Putellas and vice versa. “A tribute from one to the other. Feeling that this is part of us,” Hermoso explained.
It was precisely Putellas who guarded Hermoso’s spirit these days in Ibiza, on those vacations paid for by Rubiales. “Ale is a strong person and he is a support for Jenni and for everyone”, they say from the Putellas environment, who spoke again after the World Cup. To say enough is enough and to unite everyone, not just the champions, around a message that resounded loud and clear: “It’s over.”
“It was time to be all together. The differences that could exist between us for having gone or not to the World Cup do not matter”, explains a Barcelona player. The alliance has two goals. The first, support Hermoso. “Everyone is with Jenni, except for some Cro-Magnon,” insists the same source. The second, to break with the established power. “The thing about putting words or inventing a story to look good, of course. I hope all this pressure is enough. It is impossible for it to be sustained”, concludes one of those who signed the letter.
The world champions created a WhatsApp group to plan the strategy. Some were already part of an old chat with the players who stood up to Ignacio Quereda in 2015. The plan was to join in the collective statement, regardless of what each one could express individually. The first is to come out in support of Hermoso was, of course, Putellas. Paredes and the always belligerent Mapi León joined him: “It did not take a long time to see that what was demanded a few months ago was not a simple tantrum. The images speak for themselves”, exposed the Barça defense. They weren’t alone. Borja Iglesias, a Betis footballer, supported them and resigned from the national team. Also the captain of Barcelona, Sergi Roberto.
Soccer defends soccer. Soccer supports Hermoso. And, as always, with Putellas by his side.
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