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Jennifer Hermoso: "I felt protected knowing thousands of players were with me"

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  • Jennifer Hermoso speaks exclusively to FIFPRO about her life-changing 2023

  • The Spanish striker talks about the power of collective action

  • "The unity of the players meant that there was a before and after," says the 33-year-old

2023 was a life-changing year for Jennifer Hermoso. Her crowning moment was becoming a world champion for the first time aged 33, helping Spain to their maiden Women’s World Cup trophy in Australia and New Zealand.

"The best thing about being a footballer? Being a World Cup winner," Hermoso told FIFPRO. "It’s very difficult to achieve. In the end you dedicate a lot of your life to winning something that fulfils you, and being world champion is a kind of reward after suffering in many moments. I'm not going to say that being a world champion justifies everything, but it's a great answer to everything."

Just seconds after Hermoso received her World Cup winners’ medal, a moment which should have been about her and her team-mates, the striker was sexually assaulted after being kissed on the mouth without consent by former Spanish football federation president, Luis Rubiales, in front of a global television audience. Footballers rallied in support of Hermoso.

"It was important not to feel alone in a moment that can be terrible in your life, difficult to adapt," said Hermoso. "The fact that there are thousands of players who are with you means that you are on the right path, that you have many people behind you that push you to continue doing what you feel like doing, and for me it was very important because it made me feel protected."

FIFPRO illustrated its support for Hermoso and demanded exemplary measures against Rubiales. At the same time, footballers around the world stood in solidarity with Hermoso as the hashtag #SeAcabó (it’s over) and message Contigo, Jenni (We’re with you, Jenni) were shared widely across social media.

Rubiales was given a three-year suspension by FIFA from any football-related activity.

"Spain set a precedent," said Hermoso. "The unity of the players meant that there was a before and after. And I think that this power, this union, this comradeship is going to ensure that certain attitudes that ultimately harm us and the sport in general will not be repeated."

Collective action

For Hermoso, the power of the collective is of paramount importance and can be applied not only to her personal case but also to others in recent times, such as FIFPRO, its member unions and women’s international footballers around the globe securing improved Women’s World Cup pay and conditions.

"Unity is the most important thing," said Hermoso. "We have already seen that when the world unites, when the players unite, it is unstoppable. I think it's going to take us many years, but people are already aware and have in their minds the reality of what is today and what will be tomorrow.

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Players stand in support of Jennifer Hermoso before kick off at Sweden vs Spain in September 2023
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Players stand in support of Jennifer Hermoso before kick off at Spain vs Switzerland in September 2023
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Teresa Abelleira and Aitana Bonmati of Spain pose for a photo with armbands that read SeAcabo
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Sevilla's Nemanja Gudelj wears a shirt in support of Jennifer Hermoso with the hashtag SeAcabo

"A much higher level than before will allow us to strive for even more ambitious goals. Women’s football is taking giant strides and with each World Cup, I think people are surprised and get more involved, but there is still a long way to go.

"I imagine that for some people it will be a long journey, until they realise that equality has to be in all sectors; that the people around us realise that there is also a future, that there is also women's football, and that we are demonstrating that today.

"We just need to open up people's minds so that our future is a little simpler, that we have the same opportunities. We will continue to fight for improvements."

Future generations

With a senior career stretching back 20 years and boasting over a century of international appearances, Hermoso is a player that many young girls and boys look up to as a role model. And she doesn't shy away from that role.

"Today's players have the good fortune, and also the responsibility, to keep working and to protect all these girls who are starting out," said Hermoso. "That's why we have to be very clear about the future, and above all, that we don't repeat the same mistakes. I will continue to fight for all these young girls so that in the future they can achieve all their successes."

What advice would Hermoso give to these young girls? "There are many moments when I might lose my enthusiasm, lose the desire to keep competing, to keep trying to achieve that dream. Now, a very beautiful path has been forged for all these girls who are starting out and who now have role models, examples to look up to and they will have a much easier time.

"But above all, you have to take care of yourself and, mentally, you have to be well prepared. It is essential to get where you want to go."