There are few countries in the world where soccer is as central and preeminent as it is in Spain. Clubs are century-old institutions, and presidents (especially from Real Madrid and FC Barcelona) are considered to be way more relevant and powerful than cabinet ministers. People old and young love the game; Spanish teams are used to winning continental and world titles; and the national team, la Selección, has been living its golden age for the past 15 years. A week ago, the women’s side won the World Cup for the first time. Nearly everything is good — on the pitch.
Yet soccer institutions in Spain are a mess, and they don’t like to stay quiet about it. Clubs feud with each other. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) fights against La Liga; La Liga fights against the Federation. La Liga fights against some clubs. Some clubs fight against the Federation.
When RFEF president Luis Rubiales took the stage on Friday to address the federation’s extraordinary assembly, he was not only trying to defend his latest wrongdoings but also trying to protect his position in the bigger, global fight his institution is engaged in.
That’s why he had no problem apologizing to the Women’s World Cup authorities, to the Spanish Queen and the Royal House, and to midfielder Jennifer Hermoso for kissing Hermoso on the lips after the World Cup final on Aug. 20. And that’s why he charged against La Liga’s president Javier Tebas and against people who he said have been trying to destroy him for the past five years. In his view, the latter was what explained the trouble he finds himself in.
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