The mother of Spain’s embattled football chief, Luis Rubiales, has reportedly shut herself in a church in southern Spain and declared herself to be on a hunger strike over what she described as the “inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt” of her son.
The decision by Ángeles Béjar to lock herself into a 19th-century church is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped Spain for the past week after her 46-year-old son grabbed the Spanish forward Jenni Hermoso by the head and planted a kiss on her lips during the World Cup medal ceremony.
As video of the kiss sparked uproar across Spain and around the world, Rubiales vowed to stay on as the head of the Spanish football federation. On Saturday Fifa announced that it had provisionally suspended him for 90 days, ordering him and the federation to refrain from contact with Hermoso and those close to her.
On Monday, news agency Efe reported that Rubiales’ mother had shut herself into the Divina Pastora church in the city of Motril, deciding to remain there with her sister after the parish priest left.
Béjar said she planned to stay in the church “indefinitely, day and night”, adding that she had declared a hunger strike until a solution could be found to what she described as the “unwarranted, inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt” of her son.
Rubiales’ gesture and his conduct in the days after La Roja’s World Cup win have been condemned by politicians ranging from Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez – who described the kiss as an “unacceptable gesture” – to a spokesperson for the conservative People’s party. The country’s most powerful football clubs, from Real Madrid to Barcelona, have also criticised Rubiales’ behaviour.
On Friday, Rubiales sought to portray the kiss as consensual, claiming he had asked Hermoso if he could give her a peck and that she had replied “OK”.
Hermoso later rejected any suggestion that the kiss was consensual. She described Rubiales’ words as “categorically false” and said the “conversation did not happen”.
She said the situation had left her feeling “vulnerable and a victim of aggression”. In her statement she described the kiss as “an impulsive act, sexist, out of place and without any type of consent from my part. In short, I wasn’t respected.”
Hermoso’s statement came hours after Rubiales hit out against “false feminism” and bemoaned what he called a “social assassination”. The federation said later in a statement that Rubiales would seek to “defend himself legally” in order to prove “his complete innocence”.
Speaking on Monday, his mother struck the same note. “Why are they taking it out on him?” she asked Efe. She pleaded for the public to understand her plight, arguing that this sort of situation could happen to anyone.
She described her son as “incapable of hurting anyone”, and backed his view of what had happened during the kiss. “There is no sexual abuse since there is consent on both sides, as the images prove.”
Last week Rubiales found himself at the centre of new misogyny allegations after the general director of the Futbolistas ON players’ union, Tamara Ramos, alleged that Rubiales had made obscene comments to her when they worked together at the Spanish footballers’ association, including asking what colour her underwear was.
The allegations have been strongly denied by the Spanish football federation.