Jenni Hermoso has said she received threats amid the controversy after the then Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales kissed her on the lips following their World Cup final win.
Hermoso said the kiss was not consensual and Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch while celebrating Spain’s 1-0 win against England, was subsequently banned for three years by Fifa.
But the media storm continued for several weeks, with Hermoso dragged into a spotlight she did not choose when she should have been celebrating the biggest achievement of a career which has also yielded seven league titles and one Champions League crown.
Hermoso was left out of Spain’s squad in September, with new coach Montse Tomé saying she wanted to protect the 33-year-old, but returned last month and scored a late winner in a 1-0 victory over Italy in the Women’s Nations League.
Now Hermoso, who plays for CF Pachuca in Mexico, has opened up on the toll the controversy took on her in an interview with GQSpain. “These weeks have been very difficult,” Hermoso said. “Having to tell it over and over again was hurting me a lot. But I know I had to let it go somehow. I continue working on it with the help of my psychologist, who I have been with for many years.
“For me, mental health is as important as daily training, like the hours I have to sleep to be able to go out on the field. Thanks to her I feel strong and I’m not shattered or thinking about not wanting to play football anymore. I have not lost my enthusiasm.”
She added: “I’ve had to assume the consequences of an act that I did not provoke, that I had not chosen or premeditated. I have received threats, and that is something you never get used to.”
Rubiales has maintained that the kiss was consensual but his actions led to the creation of the adoption of the hashtag #SeAcabo, meaning ‘It’s over’, as further demands were made for fundamental change in the game. But while Hermoso never asked nor wanted to be at the centre of this story, the former Barcelona and Atlético Madrid forward said she hoped to use the platform it has given her constructively.
Asked how she wanted to be remembered, she said: “As someone who has wanted to leave Spain at the top but, above all, as someone who has tried to change many mentalities.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, there is this story, but I am going to learn to take advantage of it positively to fight for what I believe is good for society. The #SeAcabo movement must bring a new era.
“These months, with everything that has happened, my mind has wandered a little from football. At times I didn’t remember that I was a footballer. But I go back to training, to a field, to putting on the uniform, and I want to give my best version again. In the race to the Olympic Games, in my team in Mexico, in the national team. I will continue enjoying this sport.”