Luis de la Fuente, the manager of the Spanish men’s national team, has apologized for visibly applauding the speech of beleaguered soccer chief Luis Rubiales at an assembly last Friday.
De la Fuente was seen clapping at the event in the front row of the assembly on August 25, alongside women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda, who was doing the same. The pair were seen applauding several times while Rubiales defiantly proclaimed he would not resign despite the furore around the unwanted kiss he gave Jennifer Hermoso at the Women’s World Cup final.
On Saturday, Rubiales was provisionally suspended by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, and banned from “all football-related activities at national and international level” for 90 days while disciplinary proceedings are underway.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday to announce his men’s Spain squad for its upcoming internationals against Georgia and Cyprus, de la Fuente told reporters, “Given the repercussion of my applause, I would like to explain the situation lived in the last assembly.
“I have been criticized harshly for it. I believe that criticism was deserved, I understand it and I apologize,” de la Fuente continued, adding that he would not be resigning despite facing criticism for his apparent show of support.
“I don’t think I have to resign. I don’t have to resign, I have to ask for forgiveness,” he said. “Right now, if I could go back, I wouldn’t [applaud], I’m sure of it. I’ve made reference to it before: I’m on the side of equality and respect.”
When reporters asked why his response had taken so long, de la Fuente apologized further.
“It was a human mistake, I was under a lot of psychological pressure and I am sorry,” he said. “My apology is sincere and I would like you to believe it.”
The Spanish men’s coach also claimed that he thought Rubiales would resign at last week’s extraordinary meeting of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), where instead the now-suspended president defiantly refused to step down from his role.
De la Fuente insisted that his own behavior has “always been impeccable,” adding that his actions last week did not represent his “values” and emphasizing again that he will “always be on the side of equality.”
He also confirmed that he had not reached out to Hermoso after the Women’s World Cup final.
“She is going through a difficult moment,” de la Fuente said, before adding, “Perhaps I lacked courage [to reach out to her].”
Despite questions from the public and the Spanish media on whether de la Fuente should stay in his post given the appearance of supporting Rubiales, interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha told reporters in Monaco on Thursday ahead of the Champions League draw that the coach had the full backing of the Directors Board.
“Is he going to stay in his post? Absolutely. He’s backed by all the RFEF members,” said Rocha. “He’s a worker who’s doing everything amazingly. We have two matches ahead of us and he has to focus on managing, to have luck in these games, because his luck is that of all of Spain.”