OSCAR-WINNING Hollywood actor Natalie Portman has spoken out in support of the Spain women’s football team, as the controversy over the actions of the Spanish Federation Chairman Luis Rubiales rumbles on toward its fourth week.
“I wish the players could just focus on the sport. Unfortunately they have had to be political inherently, as we have seen at the last two World Cups,” the Black Swan star said to delegates at the European Clubs’ Association General Assembly in Berlin, according to a report in UK daily The Guardian.
“The winners previous to this one, the US, were fighting for equal pay at the same time as they were winning the World Cup,” she continued. “This time the Spanish team was fighting against harassment, abuse and assault.”
Portman is the part-owner of Angel City, a team from the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and is also a veteran advocate for the women’s sport.
Rubiales has been under huge pressure to quit from his role as Federation chairman, as well as Uefa vice-president, after his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup Final in Sydney on August 20.
After Spain beat England 1-0 at the game, he was caught on camera grabbing his crotch in an obscene gesture, despite standing just metres from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter Sofia, as well as planting an unsolicited kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony.
Just this week, Hermoso filed a criminal complaint against Rubiales about the kiss, which the chairman claimed was consensual. She has strenuously denied this.
In late August Natalie Portman also expressed her support for Hermoso, sharing a New York Times article about the controversy on Instagram along with a message that read: “I am with Jenni Hermoso,” as well as the hashtag #seacabó, meaning ‘it’s over’.
“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,” Portman added on Thursday, according to The Guardian. “I pray for the day they can just be athletes and everything else is fun. For now I find great inspiration from the players.”
Despite having been suspended from his roles by Fifa, Rubiales is still refusing to quit.
Also earlier this week, the men’s national team issued its own statement condemning the actions of Rubiales.
On Tuesday, women’s team coach Jorge Vilda was sacked from his role despite having taken Spain to victory at the World Cup for the first time. He was widely criticised for applauding Rubiales as he made a rambling and defiant speech to regional football chiefs during which he refused to stand down.
Most of Vilda’s coaching staff had already resigned while 81 players were refusing to play for the team until he was gone.
“I have been unfairly sacked,” Vilda complained during a radio interview on the Cadena SER radio network on Wednesday. “I am as well as I can be after having been World Champions,” he added about his emotional state.
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