The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) is expected to appeal a sanction handed down by soccer’s international governing body FIFA for the use of a homophobic chant by fans at two matches in Mexico City last month.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee ruled that the Mexican men’s team must play its next two home World Cup qualifying matches behind closed doors after fans used the infamous “eh puto” chant during matches against Canada and Honduras in October.
Puto means faggot or male prostitute in colloquial Spanish. Mexican soccer fans typically use the derogatory chant when the opposition team’s goalkeeper is taking a goal kick.
In addition to forcing El Tri, as Mexico’s national team is known, to play its next two matches without spectators, FIFA fined the FMF 100,000 Swiss Francs, or about US $109,300.
The sanction is the latest of more than 10 punishments imposed on the FMF by FIFA for fans’ use of the chant over the past six years. The men’s team was forced to play a match against Jamaica behind closed doors earlier this year and the FMF has incurred fines totaling more than 13 million pesos (US $627,000). But despite its best efforts it hasn’t been able to stop fans using the chant.
An FMF source cited by sports news website ESPN said that the federation is extremely angry about the latest punishment handed down by FIFA.
“Of course the FMF will appeal this sanction, which is not only disproportionate … but goes against FIFA’s own rules,” the source said.
FIFA has a three-step protocol to respond to the use of the puto chant, and the FMF has agreed to enforce it. In the first instance, matches must be stopped and PA announcements warning spectators not to use the chant must be made. In the second instance, matches must be temporarily suspended with players leaving the field, and in the third instance the Mexican team is forced to forfeit the match. The third step penalty would cause the Mexican team to lose valuable qualification points and potentially jeopardize its place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The ESPN source said the only protocol enacted during Mexico’s matches last month was a brief stoppage of play.
The decision to force El Tri play its next two matches with empty stadiums is like suspending a player for two matches when he only received a caution from the referee, the source said, adding that “it doesn’t make sense.”
The source asserted that FIFA is presuming that fans will once again shout the derogatory chant if allowed to attend Mexico’s upcoming home matches, adding that it isn’t taking into account the efforts the FMF has made to eliminate its use.
“No other federation has worked as much as the FMF to eradicate discrimination,” the source said. “… Without a doubt we’re going to appeal the [penalty of] two matches [without fans] and the fine,” the source reiterated.
There is a broad consensus that the word puto is homophobic, but some fans, and a former El Tri coach, don’t share that view. Miguel Herrera said last month that the word is not as offensive as FIFA makes it out to be.
FIFA believes that the word is an insult but that’s not always the case in Mexico, Herrera said. “We use it for any old thing, … to greet a friend – that’s how we use it, we use it in colloquial language,” he said.
Nevertheless, Herrera urged soccer fans not to use the word when watching matches at the stadium.
“We have to understand as fans that there is an organization that thinks the chant is a bad expression. … We have to understand that and not punish our soccer [team],” he said.