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An unwanted kiss from a Spanish soccer official has sparked a movement

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's been almost two weeks since the final game of the FIFA Women's World Cup, and since then Spaniards have heard about it on the news pretty much every day - not exactly because of that actual game of soccer but because of an unwanted kiss that followed Spain's big win - a kiss that has sparked a movement. Reporter Miguel Macias brings us this story from Seville.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: (Speaking Spanish).

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: On Sunday, August 20, at around 8 a.m. Eastern, Spain was on top of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #4: (Speaking Spanish).

(CHEERING)

MACIAS: The Spanish Women's national soccer team had completed a feat very few predicted. They beat England to win the coveted FIFA World Cup.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: (Speaking Spanish).

MACIAS: Spaniards were glued to their TVs watching the players celebrate. And when the team was going through the protocol of greeting soccer officials on the field, then it happened.

PATRICIA SIMON: Yeah, I saw how Luis Rubiales kissed Jennifer Hermoso in live time. And immediately, I tweeted a photo of it with this text - this Rubiales thing cannot go unpunished - disgust.

MACIAS: Patricia Simon is a writer and a feminist activist, and she is talking about the now-notorious kiss. Luis Rubiales, the head of the Spanish soccer federation, grabbed Jennifer Hermoso, a star player, and kissed her on the mouth as a form of questionable celebration. Many watching might not have known who Rubiales was, but for Patricia Simon, this was hardly a surprise.

SIMON: Well, we have to remember that Luis Rubiales belittled the players of the national team for years. They had had to go on a strike to demand things as basic as a salary of 16,000 euros per year or not to be fired if they got pregnant.

MACIAS: Rubiales has also been accused of corruption and inappropriate use of federation money. For Simon, this was...

SIMON: The straw that had broken the camel's back, you know? As women, we have all suffered that type of abuse.

MACIAS: But things did not stop there. The Spanish soccer federation is accused of falsely saying the player wasn't bothered by Rubiales' kiss. Rubiales later that week denounced, quote, "false feminism" and refused to resign. People responded on social media and a new sort of Spanish #MeToo movement was born.

MARIA RAMIREZ: Yeah, #SeAcabo - it's a very common expression, as you know, in Spanish. And it's even in songs. We sing - se acabo.

MACIAS: #SeAcabo - it's over, says Maria Ramirez, deputy managing editor of El Diario, Spanish online newspaper. #SeAcabo has become the motto not only of the movement against Rubiales' behavior but more broadly against machismo in Spain. It was first used by a member of the women's national team.

RAMIREZ: And then, almost organically, naturally, on social media, it became a hashtag. And many people were using this afterwards.

MACIAS: Patricia Simon was one of those people. She had spoken up in the past about the discrimination she has suffered in her professional career as a writer and a reporter.

SIMON: Now that I am 40 years old, I still see how they give less value to the work that we women do. And many editors continue considering that the work that feminist reporters do, as we apply a human rights and gender approach to our information, is less important.

MACIAS: Maria Ramirez points at something she thinks is key to understanding what's happening here.

RAMIREZ: Maybe over the last decade that we've been having these discussions, these public discussions about equality, about feminism, (inaudible) there were changes in the laws, and now, in fact, Spain has very advanced gender laws - and with that, also, backlash and tensions.

MACIAS: The far-right political party, Vox, has made feminism a cultural target. Some segments of society have opposed recent legislation that attempts to protect women. And in Spain, feminist groups and the government keep a close count of women killed due to what they call gender violence - 40 deaths so far this year.

AMPARO GUTIERREZ: (Through interpreter) It makes me so sad to not be able to talk just about soccer.

MACIAS: Amparo Gutierrez is a former professional soccer player. She's now director for the Women's Division of Seville Football Club.

GUTIERREZ: (Through interpreter) For those of us who work in female soccer and know how important it is to win a World Cup - for the Spanish brand, for the teams - it makes us sad that the news is not focusing on the game.

MACIAS: She, of course, disapproves of Rubiales' behavior, but at this point...

GUTIERREZ: (Through interpreter) We are bored. We really want people to talk about soccer - the national team, the players, the female soccer league, its growth, its improvement. That will result in sponsorships wanting to invest.

MACIAS: Because in the end, money will bring independence from men's soccer. And that's the one thing Amparo wants to see - profitable competitive women's soccer league in Spain. For NPR News, I'm Miguel Macias in Seville.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADANNA DURU SONG, "POP!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.