MONACO (AP) — The governing body of European soccer heads to its annual awards gala on Thursday in Monaco amid turmoil created by its vice president from Spain.
Luis Rubiales won't be at the high-end ceremony in Monte Carlo where the awards for best player and coach will be made because he has been suspended by FIFA, the sport's ultimate governing body. Spain could sweep the prizes for women’s soccer.
FIFA suspended Rubiales, who is both the president of the Spanish soccer federation and a vice president at European soccer body UEFA, for at least 90 days while it investigates the kiss he forced on Women’s World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso and the ongoing fallout from his overall conduct at the final in Sydney, Australia.
UEFA stayed publicly silent for 10 days since Rubiales provoked a furor in Spain and elsewhere, later fueled by his defiant refusal to resign.
Even after FIFA formally opened a disciplinary case on Thursday, UEFA did not say if it had taken action against Rubiales, who makes 250,000 euros ($270,000) annually as a vice president of that organization.
“No solidarity,” former England forward Ian Wright said of UEFA in a social media post, using an expletive to show his dismay with how the organization is treating women's soccer. “These are the same people in charge of leading the future of women’s football.”
On Thursday, either Aitana Bonmatí or Olga Carmona of Spain is likely to be named as the women's player of the season in Europe for 2022-23. The other candidate is Australia forward Sam Kerr.
Bonmatí’s season ended as a World Cup champion, a Golden Ball winner as the best player at the tournament and a Champions League winner with Spanish soccer club Barcelona. But it started by signing a letter from 15 national team players who said they no longer wanted to play for Spain coach Jorge Vilda because he was bad for their mental health.
Vilda kept his job with support from Rubiales. He picked three of the 15 rebels for his World Cup team, including Bonmatí.
Now Vilda is at risk of being fired by the federation’s interim leadership before the UEFA ceremony and has been ostracized by dozens of Spanish players and his entire coaching staff. He is among three candidates for the coaching award in women’s soccer.
Voting for the awards was done last week — as the Rubiales controversy flared into a national reckoning in Spain — by coaches of leading clubs and national teams in women’s soccer, plus media.
Last Friday, UEFA announced the candidates who placed top three in the voting just as Rubiales was refusing to resign at an emergency meeting of the Spanish federation. FIFA suspended Rubiales the next day and ordered him and the federation not to contact Hermoso amid concerns about their confrontational tactics, including threats of legal action.
Barcelona coach Jonatan Giráldez and England coach Sarina Wiegman — the only woman nominated in the category — are up against Vilda for the UEFA coaching award.
The Champions League draw will also be held at the event at a beach-side convention center, with teams like defending champion Manchester City finding out their upcoming opponents in between acceptance speeches.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin gave public comments on the topic for the first time Wednesday, saying in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe that Rubiales' actions were “inappropriate.”
“We must do more,” Ceferin said, adding he had consulted in Monaco with UEFA's female vice president. “I had a meeting today with Laura McAllister to find ways to change the way we behave.”
Separately, the Spanish federation is leading a UEFA-backed bid to host the 2030 World Cup with Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine.
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