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FIFA opens case against Spanish soccer official who kissed a player on the lips at Women’s World Cup

GENEVA — FIFA opened a disciplinary case Thursday against the Spanish soccer official who kissed a player on the lips while celebrating the team’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final.

The governing body’s disciplinary committee will weigh if Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy and medal ceremony on Sunday after Spain’s 1-0 victory over England in Sydney, Australia.

Minutes earlier, Rubiales grabbed his crotch as a victory gesture in the exclusive section of seats with Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofía standing nearby.

Hermoso has said she did not like the kiss and the national players’ union representing her — which the 46-year-old Rubiales once led — called Wednesday for his conduct to not go unpunished.

FIFA responded Thursday.

“FIFA reiterates its unwavering commitment to respecting the integrity of all individuals and strongly condemns any behavior to the contrary,” the soccer body said without specifying which acts by Rubiales are under investigation.

Víctor Francos, Spain’s secretary of state for sports, said Wednesday that “the gesture of grabbing his testicles in the tribune is a gesture that no one can defend.”

FIFA gave no timetable for a ruling. The body’s disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.

The FIFA disciplinary panel is chaired by Colombian lawyer Jorge Palacio, a former labor court judge and member of the state constitutional court.

The case likely will be judged by three of the 16 panel members. Three of the 16 are women, from England, Mexico and Thailand.

Rubiales is a vice president of UEFA, a role which pays 250,000 euros ($270,000) each year plus expenses, and was the European soccer body’s most senior representative at the biggest game in women’s soccer.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin has yet to comment on the conduct of Rubiales, who is due to host the European soccer body’s next annual congress in Madrid in February.

The Spanish soccer federation, which Rubiales has led for five years, has an emergency meeting Friday in Madrid where the agenda allows questions on the controversy.

It is unclear if the meeting will shore up support for Rubiales or respond to widespread pressure from Spanish government and soccer officials to remove him.

Rubiales, who led the Spanish players’ union for eight years before taking over as federation president in 2018, is currently heading the UEFA-backed bid to host the men’s World Cup in 2030. Spain is bidding with neighboring Portugal and Morocco, and also possibly Ukraine.

Francos said Rubiales has damaged the country’s image as it tries to win support for hosting the World Cup.

FIFA delayed launching the 2030 bid contest in June but has targeted late next year for a decision.

The Spain-led bid is currently favored over a four-nation South American plan teaming Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and inaugural 1930 World Cup host Uruguay. Despite speculation about a possible bid from Saudi Arabia, the 2034 edition is seen as a more likely goal for the oil-rich kingdom.

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