The coach of the Spanish national men’s team, Luis de la Fuente, has apologised for the “inexcusable error” of applauding Luis Rubiales during the speech in which the football federation president refused to resign over his having forcibly kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips at the presentation ceremony after the midfielder had helped Spain win the Women’s World Cup.

De la Fuente said his actions were a product of the “psychological stress” of the situation he found himself in and that if he could go back he would behave differently, although he did not explain what he was applauding. Nor did he give an explanation for why it took 24 hours for him to release a statement criticising Rubiales’s behaviour, by which time the president had already been suspended by Fifa, the game’s world governing body. He also admitted that “I probably lacked the bravery” to contact Hermoso.

“I have faced strong criticism and what I think of that criticism is that it is totally deserved,” De la Fuente said on Friday before announcing the squad for Spain’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia and Cyprus, in his first public appearance since the scandal broke. “I regret it, I understand [the criticism], it is entirely justified, and I want to say sorry. I made a mistake, a human error, and it is inexcusable. I side with equality and respect. I have to improve, we all do.”

Rubiales had delivered the defiant speech before the RFEF assembly on 25 August. In it, he declared himself the victim of a “social assassination”, claimed that Hermoso consented to the kiss that followed the World Cup win in Sydney, and repeatedly shouted that he was not going to resign. Sitting in the front row, De la Fuente was among those who clapped when Rubiales attacked what he called “false feminism”. On Friday the men’s coach said he did not recognise himself when he watched it back.

“I went to the assembly thinking that the president was going to resign,” De la Fuente said. “All the employees of the federation went with the idea that we were going to hear him resign. We were shocked when we saw that wasn’t the case, that it was the opposite. It was hard to digest. It was a situation of pressure, it overwhelmed me. I have never been in a situation of that much psychological stress before.

“You have to understand the context: the spotlight, it was too much for me. I wasn’t up to it, I didn’t act in the right way. Sometimes within the forest all you see is branches; when you step out, you see properly. I am not justifying anything, it is unjustifiable. I am only trying to explain the context.

“After the assembly, my staff and I got together. [The realisation] was immediate. I didn’t recognise myself. I don’t have the ability that you [journalists] have to write a statement in a couple of hours. I felt uncomfortable; I don’t have that ability to express it. I was in the spotlight, the middle of a storm. I took 24 hours, which was the fastest I could [go].

“I don’t have to resign – I have to say sorry.”