Manchester City legend Pablo Zabaleta mistakenly used in BBC report on Luis Rubiales scandal

An embarrassing gaffe against the backdrop of a very serious story.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 29th August 2023

It seems the BBC have made a pretty embarrassing mistake after using images of former Manchester City player Pablo Zabaleta while covering the ongoing scandal surrounding the Women’s World Cup and the Spanish FA’s president, Luis Rubiales.

There are calls for Rubiales to resign from his post after he kissed Spanish women’s team player Jenni Hermoso, who has since come out to insist was nonconsensual, not to mention various other instances of inappropriate behaviour by individuals around the national team set-up having come to light.

With the controversy casting a dark cloud over what was an otherwise magnificent moment for both the country — this being their maiden Women’s World Cup title — and our Lionesses, who made it to their first-ever final in the competition, the BBC is one of countless global outlets covering the story.

However, as female Spanish players are now refusing to play until Rubiales quits, the coaching staff have walked out and countless teams have protested in the name of the women’s team, the news corporation accidentally used pictures of Pablo Zabaleta in their most recent coverage on Monday night.

Footage from the BBC broadcast showing Zabaleta instead of Rubiales.

As you can see in the clip shared by comedian Omid Djalili, it features several seconds of the former Man City and Argentina defender, who was in attendance for the final on 20 August, walking past a row of cameras as the narration continues to discuss the under-fire FA boss.


Having been shared countless times on social media already, despite the editors at the BBC failing to notice this was not the same person, virtually everyone online (football fan or not) quickly recognised the fairly obvious blunder.

In fact, besides sharing no real similarities other than a bald head, Zabaleta is also wearing an entirely different suit and tie, yet no one working on the broadcast seemed to clock the disparity between him and the now-suspended Spanish FA president before the programme went out.


The retired defender is yet to respond to the moment of mistaken identity but many have suggested, humorously or not, that he has grounds to sue for defamation of character — though that does seem like an unlikely turn of events.

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The BBC have since responded following the mistake, with a spokesperson writing in a statement: “A production error meant we showed the wrong image in an earlier broadcast. This has now been rectified.”

As for the actual Rubiales, with pressure mounting over his position within the Spanish football federation, the nation’s governing body has now activated its sexual violence protocol and the 46-year-old is now facing a preliminary sex abuse investigation by domestic prosecutors.


Meanwhile, figures across the world of women’s football and the sport, in general, are standing in solidarity with 33-year-old Hermoso and the rest of the Spanish women’s team as more evidence of misconduct continues to be revealed.

Unfortunately, one figure who still remains part of the Spanish national squad is their equally controversial manager, Jorge Vilda, who even before being filmed seemingly cupping a female coach’s breast during the tournament, had been the subject of numerous protests over the past year. Now they’re bigger than ever.

#SeAcabo: ‘It’s over’.

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Featured Image — BBC News