The shocking actions of Luis Rubiales during Spain’s World Cup celebrations have thrown a light on how players and coaches in the men’s game are opting to respond.
Former Arsenal star Hector Bellerin has taken a firm stance, while Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta’s comments leave much to be desired.
- Hector Bellerin’s strong condemnation contrasts with Mikel Arteta’s vague response to Rubiales’ actions.
- Arteta’s lack of a decisive stand against sexism reflects a wider issue within football.
- Strong leadership and clear stances are needed to combat sexism within the sport.
The recent actions of Luis Rubiales, the Spanish FA chief, have sent shockwaves through the world of football and prompted stinging criticisms from players, notably former Arsenal star, and fan favourite, Hector Bellerin.
Rubiales grabbed and kissed Spain star Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the nation’s World Cup celebrations, an action that Hermoso herself said she “did not enjoy” and later called for it to “not go unpunished.”
Despite the widespread outrage, Rubiales has refused to step down from his position and has even said that the act was ‘mutual’ despite what everybody saw with their own eyes.
“My desire in that moment was exactly the same as if I’d have been kissing one of my daughters,” he said. “No more or less. Everybody understands that. It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual, euphoric, and consensual.
“Do you think this [incident] is so serious that I should go, after the best management in the history of Spanish football?” Rubiales added. “Let me tell you: I’m not going to resign. I’m not going to resign. I’m not going to resign.”
Men like Luis Rubiales need enablers to get away with their actions. The amount of people in the room applauding him are a sure sign of just how many he has. https://t.co/fZjwGriemn
— Molly McElwee (@molly_mcelwee) August 25, 2023
Bellerin, the former Arsenal defender, declared that he would no longer accept a Spain call-up as long as Rubiales remained in post and also issued a firm condemnation, saying: “What is happening is truly shameful.
“From representing our country with that level of vulgarity, misrepresenting the victim’s statements and, on top of that, having the audacity to blame her, going on to victimise her for having committed an abuse, are facts that no one would do.
“How can this go unpunished? Football is a social tool to make advancements and progress, machismo should have no place within this system. The narcissist never believes he has made a mistake, he is capable of lying, manipulating the truth and making the victim guilty in order to maintain his power above others.”
This bold and uncompromising stance contrasts sharply with the comments of Arteta, who when asked about the incident and if it takes away from Spain’s success, said, “Hopefully it doesn’t because I’m extremely proud of what they’ve done.
“I don’t have the full details so, sorry, I cannot comment on what happened today. But it is sad that this is happening while everybody should be celebrating and be extremely proud of what they’ve done.”
Even if you allow that Arteta was talking about not having the details of Rubiales’ press conference, rather than of the overall ‘incident’, his remarks can only be described as wishy-washy and vague, lacking the conviction and clarity displayed by Bellerin.
— Alexander (@AMonFootball) August 25, 2023
While Bellerin took a decisive stand against sexism and sexual assault in football, demanding accountability and expressing his revulsion, Arteta’s comments appear evasive and non-committal.
It is deeply disappointing that Arteta, who holds a significant position within football, has failed to use his platform to strongly denounce Rubiales’ actions.
His tepid response is indicative of a wider issue within the sport, where individuals in positions of power often shy away from taking a firm stance on issues such as sexism and assaults on women.
Arteta should take a leaf out of Bellerin’s book and make a stronger statement. He must not just condemn the act itself but also contribute to the dialogue about the underlying attitudes that allow such actions to occur in the first place.
As Bellerin rightly points out, football is a social tool that can drive change, and those in the sport’s spotlight have a responsibility to use their influence wisely.
By failing to do so, Arteta has missed an opportunity to stand up for what is right and to align himself with those fighting against the corrosive effects of sexism in football.
It’s a stark reminder that, despite the progress made in recent years, the battle against sexism within the sport is far from over, and strong leadership is needed from all corners of the footballing world.