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Natalie Portman: Spain Women’s Team’s Resilience is Inspiring

Angel City FC co-owner and Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman on Thursday praised Spain‘s World Cup-winning players, saying they showed great resilience against “harassment, abuse and assault.” Their World Cup victory last month has been overshadowed by the behaviour of Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who at the medals ceremony in Sydney grabbed player Jenni Hermoso‘s head and kissed her on the lips.

Hermoso, who says she did not consent to the kiss, on Wednesday lodged a criminal complaint over the matter, which has spiralled into a national debate over women’s rights and sexist behaviour. Rubiales has refused to step down, saying he did nothing wrong and is a victim of “false feminism.”

Portman said in a speech to the European Clubs’ Association General Assembly on Thursday that other teams had in the past had to fight for equal pay. “This time the Spanish team was fighting against harassment, abuse and assault,” said the actor, who is also a co-founder of Angel City, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team based in Los Angeles.

“The resilience of these women to play at the top level whilst being under such unfair and unjust conditions and the ability to be advocates on and off the field is inspiring,” said Portman, who attended the World Cup in Australia. Rubiales could face criminal charges in addition to the ongoing inquiry by Spain’s top sport court for serious misconduct and an investigation by world soccer governing body FIFA, which has provisionally suspended Rubiales from office for 90 days.

Hermoso’s club in Mexico, Pachuca, announced on Thursday that the World Cup winner had returned to the team but will not be speaking with media. “Thank you for understanding and respecting her privacy,” the statement read. “Club Pachuca will offer Jenni Hermoso all the support — institutional, emotional and personal — she needs to continue her activities.”

Meanwhile, Spain men’s coach Luis de la Fuente tried to avoid questions on Thursday about Rubiales’ behaviour. On the eve of their Euro 2024 qualifier in Tbilisi against Georgia, a visibly uncomfortable De La Fuente tried to dismiss the idea that the furore sparked by Rubiales’ actions in Sydney could be a distraction for his players. “We have a very important game. We need to win tomorrow with our eyes on qualifying for the European Championship and we are only focused on that,” De La Fuente told a press conference.

“I want us to do well enough to win tomorrow,” De la Fuente said when asked for his opinion on the RFEF decision to sack women’s coach Jorge Vilda, as both were under fire for applauding Rubiales when he said he would not resign. Spain midfielder Rodri said the players had a meeting with De La Fuente to address the issue.

“The first thing we did was get together to talk about the situation and the responsibility of expressing ourselves as a Spain men’s team,” Rodri said. “The coach gave his own explanations. It is an unpleasant situation that we all find ourselves in, including the coach. They haven’t been easy weeks for him.”

Source: ESPN