“I am here because there has been injustice with Luis Rubiales,” Juan Tamayo tells The Athletic.

“This is very strong. It cannot be that a person is being called an abuser for a little peck, a kiss. When we all know that he is not. It is despicable. There are many worse things that have happened — a woman died last week and there was not all this brouhaha. It is a double standard.”

Tamayo is a resident of Motril, the Andalusian home town of Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales, who has been suspended by FIFA for his behaviour after Spain won the Women’s World Cup on August 20.

The 46-year-old was filmed kissing Jenni Hermoso on the lips as Spain collected their medals.

Rubiales has been heavily criticised by many in Spain, including the country’s acting president Pedro Sanchez, who called his actions unacceptable and called on him to consider his position. Acting minister for equality Irene Montero tweeted that his kiss was “sexual abuse”.

However, these sentiments were not shared by all of those who gathered outside Motril’s Church of the Divine Shepherdess on Monday. Or all of those inside.

Angeles Bejar, Rubiales’ mother, had entered the church on Monday morning to begin a hunger strike. Some protesters held up banners including ‘Stop Rubiales being hunted’ and ‘Jenni, why don’t you tell the truth?’.

“I know the family,” says Tamayo. “This is really tough on them. There cannot be this persecution — you look at any social media and they are saying horrible things, calling him “murderer”, “thief”, “mafioso”. Everyone talks, but without any proof. If he was a murderer, thief, or up to no good, he would have been denounced months ago. Why are they denouncing him now.”

When it was pointed out that Rubiales has been under investigation in various cases, the response was defensive.

“Some are open, some have been closed,” says Tamayo. “I have the impression this is a witch hunt. Why has the president of the La Liga been after him for five years? Since the first minute, he has been trying to get rid of Luis Rubiales from the federation presidency. Why are there so many cases taken against him by the president of La Liga.

The crowd outside the church (Dermot Corrigan/The Athletic)

“It is a war for power, and now there are two female ministers, the two communists, are doing the work of the La Liga president.

“It is something dramatic for the town. He is a kid from here, that we saw playing football here when he was very young, who everyone loves. He even played in La Liga. A Motrileno president of the Spanish football federation. That makes us proud.”

Also gathered outside the church were dozens of journalists, and only one local who had come to protest against Rubiales and his actions. Francisco Torcuato was wearing a t-shirt with a handwritten message calling on Motril’s mayor Luisa Maria Garcia Chamorro to remove the ‘gold medal of the city’ which was awarded to Rubiales in June 2021.

“I am here because Motril has 60,000 inhabitants and 125 people are doing huge damage to our international reputation,” Torcuato says. “This is not what Motril is as a city. It is not sexist, women are not kissed without their consent, nor are they grabbed by the head. We do not all believe Rubiales’ version, so something had to be done. And we are asking for the mayor to take away his gold medal, urgently.”

Torcuato said that there were more local residents who, like him, did not support the suspended federation chief, but that the family had a lot of power in the city where Luis Manuel Rubiales Lopez — his father — was mayor from 1995 until 2003.

Police were present all day outside the church, and officers entered during the evening to speak with Rubiales’ mother Bejar, who has been accompanied inside by the suspended president’s aunt. Police told reporters outside that the pair were in good health, and had water and isotonic drinks. The church is connected to the residence of the priest, who did not appear all day.

Torcuato added: “There is a lot of fear here, many people think that if you go against him, you won’t be able to work. Motril works like that. The police should have taken her (Rubiales mother) out already. This protest does not have any permission, it is completely illegal.”

As the drama played out on the street outside the pretty white Divina Pastor in the middle of the city, news that could impact Rubiales’ future emerged across Spain.

If Rubiales’ mother had not started a hunger strike inside a church, any one of these incidents might have been the most chaotic moment of a chaotic day.

In the morning, Andreu Camps, the RFEF’s own general secretary, sent a request to UEFA on Friday asking for it to suspend his own federation. This would have meant that the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad would have been out of the Champions League.

Camps, a longtime Rubiales ally, made the request on the grounds that the Spanish government had broken UEFA rules on government interference. Spain’s High Council for Sport (CSD), a government body, requested Rubiales be investigated by the country’s Administrative Sports Court (TAD) on Friday.

The TAD is described in Spanish law as being part of the CSD, while acting independently of it. Four of its seven members are chosen by the CSD president, with three representatives proposed by various Spanish sporting federations.

UEFA has decided not to take any action following Camps’ complaint.

Then the hits started coming for Rubiales himself. As the day rolled into the afternoon, the Prosecutor’s Office of the National Court announced they had opened a sexual assault investigation against him.

The Spanish ministry did so after receiving six complaints from individuals or associations, but especially after the statement published by the player last Friday, August 25, where she confirms that she felt “vulnerable” and “victim of an aggression”, which has meant a change of course in the case.

That is why the Prosecutor’s Office has invited Hermoso to formalise the complaint she made public on Friday with the statement about the non-consensual kiss. Hermoso will have 15 days to contact that department.

Rubiales has also lost support in the one organisation he could guarantee help from — his own RFEF (the Spanish FA).

There was a meeting of the commission of presidents of regional and territorial federations of the RFEF on Monday.

In the evening, they released a statement through the RFEF website. It read: “After the latest events and the unacceptable behaviours that have seriously damaged the image of Spanish football, the presidents request that Mr Luis Rubiales immediately present his resignation as president of the RFEF.

“We will urge the corresponding bodies to carry out a deep and imminent organic restructuring in strategic positions of the Federation to give way to a new stage of management in Spanish football.

“In addition, we have urged President Pedro Rocha to immediately withdraw the last communication on behalf of the Federation with FIFA and UEFA that we have known today.”

A protestor holds a sign reading ‘it’s over’ in Madrid (OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP)

While not as pressing as the statement from the RFEF, a press conference by the president of the Superior Sports Council Victor Francos indicated where this could yet go.

Last week, they sent a request to Spain’s Administrative Sports Court (TAD) for a pair of possible violations by Rubiales.

While there has been no response from the TAD, Francos spoke again on Monday. He said they made the request “so that it is dealt with as a very serious fault and that we activate the mechanisms. But we have no news from TAD and we respect their decision. There are those who think that by skipping a rule we can run more, but we must respect.”

There are also fears, now, about what this could mean for Spain’s 2030 World Cup bid. Francos commented: “I think we are doing the right thing. Firstly, to take the decisions we are taking, secondly, that they are transmitted, and thirdly, to take the diplomatic actions we have to do. An hour and a half ago I spoke with the vice-president of FIFA and in a few hours I will speak with the president of FIFA. I am convinced that we have options for the organization of the World Cup.”

But the president of the CSD has acknowledged that he is “concerned”.

“We were better placed for the 2030 World Cup two weeks ago than we are today”

The protests outside the church might have generally been in favour of Rubiales, but at the seat of power, another demonstration was deeply against the president.

In Callao Square in Madrid, hundreds of people gathered to show their support for Hermoso and their opposition to Rubiales.

Rubiales’ mother might have her own sanctuary behind the doors of the church, but there is no escaping the situation for her son.

He insisted last week that he would not resign. On Monday, though, the pressure grew. He was already contending with 81 players saying they would refuse call-ups to the national team while the leadership was in place.

Now, hunger strike or no hunger strike, the gears of Spanish football’s institutions feel as though they are turning against him.

(Top photos: Getty Images; Dermot Corrigan)