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Oscar winner Portman praises Spain team's resilience amid kiss scandal

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a scarf that reads \"It's over, All Together\" during a protest against Royal Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales and in support of the player Jenni Hermoso at Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona, Spain September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Bruna Casas

BERLIN - Oscar-winning actress and soccer club co-owner Natalie Portman on Thursday praised Spain's World Cup-winning players, saying they showed great resilience against "harassment, abuse and assault".

Their World Cup victory last month has been overshadowed by the furore over the behaviour of Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who at the medals ceremony in Sydney grabbed player Jenni Hermoso's head and kissed her on the lips.

Hermoso, who says she did not agree to the kiss, on Wednesday lodged a criminal complaint over the matter, which has spiralled into a national debate over women's rights and sexist behaviour. Rubiales has refused to step down, saying he did nothing wrong and is a victim of "false feminism".

Portman said in a speech to the European Clubs’ Association General Assembly on Thursday that other teams had in the past had to fight for equal pay.

"This time the Spanish team was fighting against harassment, abuse and assault," said the actor, who is co-founder and co-owner of National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team Angel City in Los Angeles.

"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," said Portman, who attended the World Cup in Australia.

Rubiales could face criminal charges in addition to the ongoing inquiry by Spain's top sport court for serious misconduct and an investigation by world soccer governing body FIFA, which has provisionally suspended Rubiales from office for 90 days. REUTERS