Spaniards celebrated their country’s first Women’s World Cup victory on Sunday afternoon by holding dance parties in the streets and sharing their giddy delight.
But it was a kiss seen around the world that was the talk of social media.
Amid the national jubilation, many were jolted by an impromptu kiss planted on the Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso by the president of Spain’s soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, during the medals ceremony, an unpleasant reminder to many of the sexism scandals that have plagued Spanish women’s soccer.
After the Spanish players defeated England 1-0 and lined up onstage in Sydney, Australia, to collect their medals before lifting the World Cup trophy, Mr. Rubiales enthusiastically grabbed Ms. Hermoso, kissed her on the cheeks and then kissed her fully on the lips, video of the encounter showed. Spain’s Queen Letizia was onstage at the time.
Later, in another video, Ms. Hermoso is seen apparently making her distaste known, responding, “Hey, but I didn’t like that!”
The video of what many concluded had been an unwanted smooch was widely shared on social media, spurring confusion among many Spaniards and prompting others to denounce it as highly inappropriate behavior. Some called it disgraceful and evidence of lingering sexism in soccer. Others demanded that Mr. Rubiales resign.
As of Sunday night, he had not responded to the criticism. The soccer federation did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from Mr. Rubiales as it was late in Spain.
The kissing episode revived memories of the mistreatment of Spain’s female soccer players. For 27 years, the women’s national team had the same coach, who was infamous for dismissing the players as “chavalitas,” or immature girls. He was dismissed in 2015 after players protested.
Current members of the women’s national team have also complained that they have been disrespected by top male soccer executives and denied the kind of elite equipment and treatment given to the men’s teams. The women have said that the facilities the federation provided for them are subpar and that Jorge Vilda, their coach, fostered an oppressive workplace environment, one in which the players’ every move was monitored by his staff.
Last fall, many players revolted against the coach and federation, accusing them of mistreatment and withdrawing from consideration for the national team. Ms. Hermoso was seen as having tacitly supported the rebellion.
The controversies did not stop Spain from winning this year’s World Cup. But the sudden kiss added another dimension to the women’s victory.
In a live video posted on Instagram and shared on other social media platforms, Ms. Hermoso is seen celebrating with her teammates in the locker room after the final and smiling even as she says the kiss was not wanted.
Adding to the confusion, Mr. Rubiales is heard in another video telling the players that they would be rewarded with a trip to Ibiza for their victory and adding that it would be an opportunity to celebrate his “wedding” to Ms. Hermoso — an apparent reference to the kiss.
There is no indication that Mr. Rubiales and Ms. Hermoso are in a relationship.
Nadia Tronchoni, an editor at El País, Spain’s biggest newspaper, noted in an opinion piece that Sunday’s victory was “more than a title” for Spanish women.
“The women, the girls of this country celebrated the fact that our stubbornness has finally defeated machismo,” she said, referring to female players’ long struggle to be recognized. “Rubiales’s kiss to Hermoso reminds us that the road ahead is a long one.”