Luis Rubiales row overshadows Champions League draw as mother is hospitalised
Uefa was struggling to keep the football world's focus on one of its showpiece occasions, the Champions League draw, on Wednesday night as the scandal surrounding its vice-president Luis Rubiales showed no sign of letting up.
European football royalty will converge on Monte Carlo for an event that traditionally sets the scene for the new campaign, tying in the draw and an awards ceremony for least season's best players and coaches, but any intrigue over group-stage ties has been superseded by the row around Rubiales.
The Spanish football federation (RFEF) president has already been suspended from football activity for 90 days by Fifa, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings, after kissing the Spain player Jenni Hermoso on the lips following their World Cup final win against England on 20 August. Rubiales claims the kiss was consensual; Hermoso has said it was not.
There has been little sense of Uefa's stance on one of its most senior figures, Luis Rubiales being one of five vice-presidents who operate beneath the Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin. The European governing body has been keen to leave judgment on the case to its global counterpart, Fifa, a stance Ceferin laid out in an interview on Wednesday with the French sports paper L'Équipe.
Ceferin said: "What he did was inappropriate. We all know it. I hope he knows it was inappropriate. This is enough for the moment because the independent disciplinary bodies will decide."
Pressed on whether Uefa should be taking its own action, Ceferin said: "He is suspended from all his functions, everywhere. There is no need to do so twice." The incident in question occurred during a tournament that runs under Fifa's disciplinary jurisdiction.
In further developments on Wednesday, Rubiales's mother was taken to hospital, according to the the parish priest of the church where Ángeles Béjar has been undertaking a hunger strike in protest at what she sees as the unjust treatment of her son. "It's because of the heat and everything else," the priest told reporters. "Her feet were swollen and she was tired. She was also anxious." The priest also confirmed that Rubiales's mother would not be returning to the church.
Béjar had entered the church of the Holy Shepherdess in the Andalucían city of Motril on Monday, announcing she had decided to stop eating to denounce what she termed the "unwarranted, inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt" of her son.
Luis Rubiales, who has refused to resign from his post at the RFEF despite widespread condemnation and a marked lack of domestic support, will not be present in Monte Carlo owing to his ban but still formally remains in his Uefa post.
Among the potential award winners at the ceremony is the Spain women's manager, Jorge Vilda, who was backed by Rubiales last year after 15 of his squad signed a letter after saying they no longer wanted to play for him. He is shortlisted for the women's coach of the year prize. Three of those players returned for the World Cup but the rest were not involved. Voting for the women's awards took place last week, with England's Sarina Wiegman also in contention.
Back in Spain the acting equality minister, Irene Montero, has joined the chorus of voices saying the Rubiales affair must be used to accelerate the stamping-out of sexism across society. "Spain is a feminist society in which sexism still exists, but it is determined to end sexism," she said. "We are sending the correct message to the world, that sexism is over.
"I think it has become evident that feminism is also a task for men," she said. "Perhaps it would have been desirable for this pact of silence to be broken with more force and forcefulness. But I think it has begun to crack and that is a very important step."