The Spanish football federation has threatened to sue Jenni Hermoso, the player at the centre of a row over its president’s conduct, for lying and defamation.
It has also threatened to sue the 79 women’s football players who signed a letter in which they refused to play for their country as long as Rubiales remained in his post.
In a statement, the federation said that it would take the “necessary legal action” and told the players that “playing for the national team is an obligation on any member of the federation called upon to do so”.
The move is the latest chapter in a fast-moving story after Rubiales kissed the Spanish player Jenni Hermoso after their World Cup victory a week ago, a kiss Hermoso says was not consensual and made her feel “vulnerable and the victim of an aggression”.
“At no time did I consent to the kiss,” Hermoso said in a statement. “I won’t tolerate having my word doubted, much less have people inventing things that I didn’t say.”
Shortly after the incident, the federation issued a statement in which Hermoso purportedly said the kiss was consensual and that she and Rubiales enjoyed a close relationship, words Hermoso says were written by the federation, not herself. She said her family and friends had come under pressure to produce a similar statement.
“I don’t want to interfere in the legal process but I feel obliged to report that the words used by Sr Luis Rubiales to explain what happened are categorically untrue and are part of the manipulative culture that he himself has created. I have not been respected,” Hermoso said in a written statement.
The federation reproduced a series of still photographs of the incident that it claims show that Hermoso lifted Rubiales off his feet and was not only willing but an instigator of the kiss.
Both Rubiales’ rambling speech on Friday, in which he said he was a victim of a witch-hunt and “fake feminism”, and the federation’s defence of him are increasingly seen as a battle that goes far beyond football, a struggle between an entrenched, entitled male hierarchy and a more modern, feminist Spain.