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Spanish player Jenni Hermoso returns to Mexican club team; Sue Bird, Pau Gasol offer their support

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Jenni Hermoso returned to Mexico on Thursday to resume playing with her club team, which pledged to help her find “normality” after the Spaniard was kissed without consent by the president of the Spanish soccer federation following the Women’s World Cup final.

Hermoso, who plays for Pachuca in the Mexican league, has formally accused Luis Rubiales of sexual assault for kissing her on the lips, Spain's prosecutors’ office said Wednesday.

Rubiales, the now-suspended president of the federation, kissed Hermoso during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England to win the title on Aug. 20 in Sydney.

Meanwhile, in Manila, Philippines, at the Basketball World Cup on Friday, two basketball greats — Sue Bird of the U.S. and Spain's Pau Gasol — expressed both their support for Hermoso and disappointment in the entire situation.

“People being able to tell their truth starts with holding the powers that be, for lack of a better, accountable,” Bird said. “I think it’s a very sad situation, what happened to Jenni. I fully support her. I think we all saw it with our own eyes. And, the sad part is that even when you see it, people aren’t necessarily held accountable. Hopefully we see more of that accountability.”

Gasol called Rubiales' behavior “very disappointing” and expressed dismay that it overshadowed the first women's World Cup title for Spain.

“That type of behavior cannot be tolerated or accepted," Gasol said. “As a president of a federation, you should know better. But it happened, and now you have to deal with it and make sure it doesn't happen again.”

The 33-year-old Hermoso arrived at dawn in Mexico City from Madrid and continued to Pachuca about 90 kilometers to the southwest, to rejoin the Tuzas.

Hermoso has not made face-to-face statements to the media since the final and will maintain that position in Mexico, at least for now.

“For the moment, our player will not appear before the media, as she will be 100% focused on resuming her activities and returning to normality in her day-to-day life,” the club said in a statement. “We appreciate your understanding and respect for her privacy.”

Pachuca has a match Sunday against Pumas in the 10th round of the Apertura tournament. It is uncertain whether Hermoso will be in the lineup.

“Jenni Hermoso has all the institutional, emotional and personal support of the Pachuca soccer club to continue her activities in the best way with the Tuzas,” the statement added.

In addition to Pachuca, the women’s Liga MX welcomed the world champion to Mexico on social media, as did other teams in the league.

The Tuzas are in 10th place among 18 teams in the first division after nine rounds.

After a long career in Europe with spells at Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, Hermoso joined Pachuca last summer. She scored 18 goals in 20 games and helped the team reach the final where it lost to club America earlier this year.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Manila, Philippines contributed.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer