FIFA has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), as well as the Argentinian, Chilean, Peruvian, and Uruguayan federations, for “unsporting conduct of fans in relation to insulting and discriminatory chants during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.”
In the case of Mexico, disciplinary proceedings were opened following their World Cup qualifying match against El Salvador on November 13, 2015.
For Mexico, like the other four sanctioned countries, the “proceedings relate to homophobic chants by the respective team’s fans, with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee finding the associations to have violated article 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.”
While the exact nature of the homophobic chants are not specified in FIFA’s press release, it’s not hard to imagine what chant has gotten Mexico in trouble: the ubiquitous shouting of “¡Puto!” at opposition goalkeepers when they take their goal kicks. The term is defined by the Real Academia Española as “un hombre que tiene concúbito con persona de su sexo”, or a man who has sex with other men. It is often used as a gay slur.
Interestingly, FIFA opened a similar investigation against Mexico during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, only to drop disciplinary proceedings after FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee decided that the chant “is not considered insulting in this specific context.”
This investigation and punishment, then, is an about-face for FIFA, which has fined the Mexican federation 20,000 Swiss Francs (about $19,869 U.S.) for the chanting in November’s World Cup Qualifier.
Argentina, Peru and Uruguay were fined the same amount for other individual incidents, while Chile was hit by a fine of 70,000 Swiss Francs for four incidents. The Honduran Football Association is also being investigated for homophobic chants, but those proceedings are still ongoing.
In addition to the fine, the associations must present a concrete action plan to fight discrimination by March 31st, which comes just days after Mexico’s next two World Cup Qualifying matches.
The FMF has declared its intention to appeal the sanction, with Secretary General Guillermo Cantú noting that there are “words that have various meanings within our culture. It’s important that the world and obviously FIFA can understand the context of some things.”
However, even within Mexico and the Mexican culture, there is no one single viewpoint regarding the “puto” chant. Many fans claim that within the context of the chant, the word has no homophobic connotations but is used just to distract the goalkeeper. Others disagree.
Mexican anti-discrimination organization CONAPRED characterizes it as a stigmatizing and negative term, and doesn’t see its use in a sporting context any differently. “The way that this collective yell is given in stadiums isn’t innocent; it reflects the homophobia, machismo, and misogyny that our society still suffers.”