Jenni Hermoso was on Wednesday included in the Spain women’s squad for the first time since the scandal over the unsolicited kiss former federation president Luis Rubiales gave her following the Women’s World Cup final in Australia.
New coach Montse Tome included the 33-year-old midfielder, who plays for Mexican side Pachuca, in her squad to face Switzerland and Italy later this month in the Nations League.
Hermoso has been in the eye of the storm that shook Spanish football after Rubiales forcibly kissed her on the lips during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England in the Women’s World Cup final in Australia on August 20.
Rubiales was the head of the Spanish football federation, or the RFEF at the time, but he has since resigned following an outcry over the kiss, with 39 players striking from the national team to demand changes.
He said the kiss was mutual and consensual, but Hermoso said it was done without her consent.
The scandal also led to the dismissal of coach Jorge Vilda, who was replaced by Tome, his number two.
Last month Tome called up the majority of the Women’s World Cup-winning players for her first Spain squad, but left out Hermoso – Spain’s all-time leading scorer – to “protect her”.
The decision to leave her out was criticised by many players and by Hermoso herself.
“Protect me from what? And from whom?” Hermoso asked in a statement.
Three other players who Tome left out due to injuries last month – Esther Gonzalez, Ivana Andres and Salma Paralluelo – were also given the green light to return.
Spain play Italy on October 27 and Switzerland on October 31. Spain currently sit top of their group with two wins from two and will be looking to move closer to booking a place in the finals.
‘Tarnished my image’
Rubiales last month appeared before a court in Madrid which is considering a complaint of sexual assault against the 46-year-old over the kiss.
Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a criminal category that groups together all types of sexual violence.
The penalties for a forced kiss can range from a fine to four years in prison.
Rubiales is also accused of “coercion” for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to speak out in his defence immediately after the furore over the kiss erupted.
Hermoso told prosecutors she was repeatedly pressured by federation officials to “downplay” the kiss.
“I kept being asked to protect him (Rubiales) and help them (the RFEF). They tarnished my image, I felt that no one was protecting me,” she said according to a leaked recording of Hermoso’s meeting with prosecutors which aired earlier this month on private television Telecinco.
“I want to make it clear that at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me and in no way did I seek to encourage the president,” she added.