Spanish prosecutors said on Monday that they had opened an investigation into whether Luis Rubiales, the president of the country’s soccer federation, could be charged with committing an act of sexual aggression after he forcibly kissed one of the female team’s players on the lips when they won the World Cup this month.
Opposition has steadily grown in response to Mr. Rubiales’s conduct and his strident defense of it, and the group he heads, known formally as Royal Spanish Football Federation, found itself under increasing pressure to take action. The group was meeting later Monday to discuss the issue.
Mr. Rubiales was shown on video after the World Cup final in Sydney on Aug. 20 kissing one of the team’s star players, Jennifer Hermoso, and although he apologized the day after, he then took a defiant stand later in the week.
He said Ms. Hermoso had lifted him off his feet and “moved me close to her body,” accusing his critics of “false feminism” and saying he was the victim of “social assassination.” Ms. Hermoso countered in a statement, “At no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me.”
The Spanish team has recently found success at the highest levels of women’s soccer, after reaching the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2015, but the events involving Mr. Rubiales were a reminder that the program has been plagued by sexism and other scandals.
Mr. Rubiales is a vice president of UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, and has been leading the joint bid by Spain, Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine to host the 2030 World Cup. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, had already suspended him from the sport for 90 days. The entire female team and dozens of other players signed a joint statement saying they would not take the field to play for Spain “if the current managers continue.”
Criticism of Mr. Rubiales has come from the government, too. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez described his conduct as “unacceptable,” and the secretary of the opposition People’s Party, Cuca Gamarra, called the kiss “shameful.”
Players from around the world showed their support for Ms. Hermoso, often using the hashtag “se acabó,” or “it’s over,” after a social media post by Alexia Putellas, a member of the Spanish national team.