TORONTO — Canada coach Bev Priestman says she feels "devastated" for Spain's World Cup-winning team, whose exploits on the pitch have been obscured by the scandal off it involving Luis Rubiales, the now-suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation.
Rubiales kissed Spanish forward Jenni Hermoso during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England to win the title on Aug. 20 in Sydney.
The 46-year-old Rubiales has insisted the kiss was consensual. Hermoso, a 33-year-old forward who plays for Mexican club Pachuca, has denied that in statements issued by her and her players union.
Spanish state prosecutors have accused Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion.
"Spain were an incredible team, an incredible talent," Priestman said Friday when asked about the scandal at a virtual availability.
"And that one moment that not many people in the world get to experience — which is winning the World Cup — to have that overshadowed from the minute it happened to even now, I'm devastated for the players for that reason," she said.
"It should be the height of their career," she added. "But it probably unearths some problems that still are there in the women's game … I hope it's going to be the start of some systemic change that needs to happen."
FIFA suspended Rubiales from his post on Aug. 27, a day after he refused to step down when he delivered a defiant speech to the general assembly of his federation in which he said he was victim of a ``witch hunt'' by ``false feminists.'' He was banned from his post for 90 days while FIFA disciplinary judges consider his case.
Soccer's governing body can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press