Jenni Hermoso has been included in the Spain women’s squad for the first time since the scandal over the unsolicited kiss that former football federation president Luis Rubiales gave her following the Women’s World Cup final in Australia.
New coach Montse Tome included the 33-year-old midfielder, who plays for Mexican side Pachuca, in her squad to face Switzerland and Italy later this month in the Nations League.
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Hermoso has been in the eye of the storm that shook Spanish football after Rubiales forcibly kissed her on the lips during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England in the Women’s World Cup final in Australia on August 20.
Rubiales was the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) at the time, but he has since resigned following an outcry over the kiss, with 39 players striking from the national team to demand changes.
He said the kiss was mutual and consensual, but Hermoso said it was done without her consent.
The scandal also led to the dismissal of coach Jorge Vilda, who was replaced by Tome, his number two.
Last month Tome called up the majority of the Women’s World Cup-winning players for her first Spain squad, but left out Hermoso – Spain’s all-time leading scorer – to “protect her”.
The decision to leave her out was criticised by many players and by Hermoso herself.
“Protect me from what? And from whom?” Hermoso asked in a statement.
‘Can’t wait to see her’
Asked about Hermoso’s inclusion at a news conference on Wednesday, Tome said she had spoken with the player and reiterated that her absence in the previous squad was an attempt to protect her.
“There was no problem with her at that moment. We took the decision not to include her to protect her, we thought it was the best thing for her at that moment,” she said.
“Both me and my coaching staff have spoken to her, I sense she is better, she has scored three times in four games. We already know what a player she is,” Tome added.
“We can’t wait to see her and to start training and thinking about Italy and Switzerland.”
Spain play Italy on October 27 and Switzerland on October 31. Spain currently sit top of their group with two wins from two and will be looking to move closer to booking a place in the finals.
Three other players who Tome left out due to injuries last month – Esther Gonzalez, Ivana Andres and Salma Paralluelo – were also given the green light to return.
Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a nonconsensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a criminal category that groups together all types of sexual violence.
The penalties for a forced kiss can range from a fine to four years in prison.
Rubiales is also accused of “coercion” for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to speak out in his defence immediately after the furore over the kiss erupted.
Hermoso told prosecutors she was repeatedly pressured by federation officials to “downplay” the kiss.