The pressure is on for Luis Rubiales, the president of Spain’s national soccer federation, to quit.
Prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation on Monday into whether his kiss of the forward Jennifer Hermoso, during the medals ceremony after she and her teammates won the Women’s World Cup for Spain last week, was an act of sexual aggression.
In an emergency meeting that went on late into Monday night, Spain’s regional soccer chiefs unanimously asked him to step down immediately. The president of the National Sports Council said in a televised news conference on Monday that Mr. Rubiales should have handed in his notice last Friday. And in Madrid on Monday night, hundreds of people took to the streets, waving red cards and demanding Mr. Rubiales’s resignation.
But Mr. Rubiales has remained defiant. Since Friday — when he said “I will not resign” five times — he has been holed up with his family in his hometown, Motril.
Mr. Rubiales, a former professional soccer player, had hoped to play a match with friends on Saturday evening at the town’s municipal stadium. Feminist groups threatened to protest outside the gates, and the town council ordered it canceled, saying it could not guarantee Mr. Rubiales’s safety.
There are also some signs of backing for him in the town, however.
Mr. Rubiales’s mother has been on hunger strike in a church in Motril since Monday, protesting against what she has called the “inhumane and bloody hunt” against her son. On Monday night, responding to a call by Mr. Rubiales’s cousins, people congregated outside the church in support, some with posters aimed at Ms. Hermoso saying: “Jenni, tell the truth.” A police estimate cited in the Spanish media put the crowd at around 200.
On Monday, Spain’s public prosecutors opened a pretrial investigation to establish whether the nonconsensual kiss Mr. Rubiales pressed on Ms. Hermoso was an act of sexual aggression, a crime that is punishable by up to four years in prison. Ms. Hermoso was widely reported to have been given 15 days to come forward with a formal complaint that would allow the prosecutors to proceed.
As a young man, Mr. Rubiales, 46, enjoyed a career as a soccer player in the Spanish league. He became president of the Spanish soccer players’ association in 2010 and then took over the presidency of the Royal Spanish Football Federation five years ago.
On Tuesday morning, there was no news from Mr. Rubiales. If he refuses to go voluntarily, the federation he presides over may hold a vote of no confidence to oust him.
The Spanish government, for the time being, has its hands tied. According to press reports, it can intervene only if the Court of Arbitration for Sport considers the kiss to be a “very serious infraction.” On Monday, the reports said, the court asked for more documentation before reaching a decision.
In a news conference on Tuesday morning, the acting sports minister, Miquel Iceta, was questioned about what steps the government was taking to remove Mr. Rubiales. “We all want this matter to be resolved as soon as possible,” Mr. Iceta said. “But we must also ensure that it is done rigorously and with all the legal guarantees — among other reasons, to prevent an appeal that could reverse whatever decisions are made.”