Commentary

More fines to Mexico for anti-gay chant -- but is that enough?

By Mike Woitalla
@MikeWoitalla

This week, FIFA took action against Mexico, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, for "homophobic chants by supporters."

The chant in question is the roar of “Eeeh … puto!” when a goalkeeper takes a goal kick, and in the USA we’re most familiar with its use by Mexican fans. In the latest round of sanctions, the Mexican federation [FMF] was fined $32,000. Mexico was also among the nations fined by FIFA in January and May for “homophobic chants.”

The FMF launched an anti-discrimination campaign, “Abrazados por el Fútbol” (“Embraced by Soccer”) last March, but every attempt to urge fans from stopping the chant -- which is often muted by U.S. Spanish-language broadcasters -- seems only to prompt fans to yell it with more vigor.

During the Copa America Centenario, hosted by the USA last summer, The New York Times ran an article headlined “In Wake of Orlando Shootings, Mexican Soccer Chant Offends Many,” which wrote of the word:

"Puto,' roughly translated as ‘male prostitute,’ is a slur often hurled at gay men in Mexico, but fans who chant it say they use it out of the more generalized meaning of ‘coward’ (or, in the adjective form, simply an unpleasant thing).”

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio defended the chant (“It doesn’t hurt anyone”), as did his predecessor, Miguel Herrera (“It’s not that bad”).

The Times article quoted Mexican Enrique Torre Molina, campaign manager at All Out, an international gay rights organization:

“The whole point is that the choice of this word is absolutely linked to a negative, homophobic meaning. ‘Puto’ is the word many gay men have been called in school or even by family members to mock us or put us down. ‘Puto’ is the word many gay men hear as they’re being beaten, sometimes to death, in the daily homophobic crimes committed in Latin America.”

Two years ago, I asked legendary Mexican striker and former El Tri coach Hugo Sanchez about the chant and he said, “They should use a different word.”

Current Mexico midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, after the latest fine, said, "Something has to be done about it,” but added it "has always been done without offending anyone."

Mexican writer and journalist Juan Villoro said, "It's a big deal because the chant is certainly an atrocity. It's not a chant Mexicans should be proud of; it is clearly homophobic."

Mexico News Daily, in covering the latest fines and sourcing La Afición Milenio, wrote: “Puto is Spanish for male prostitute and is a word that is also used also as a derisive term to describe homosexuals, cowards and traitors in some Latin American countries.”

I’ve spoken to many Mexican-American fans about it and find it interesting how emphatically they defend its use. Before the Mexico-Chile game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a fan who had flown to the game from San Diego, said, “It’s like our national anthem.” Other fans said it was a tradition they weren’t about to abandon and claimed the word isn’t anti-gay.

Now the FMF, which seemed to be trying to discourage the chant, announced it’s appealing the latest fine: “In the specific context, the chant is not discriminatory,” said Mexican federation secretary general Guillermo Cantu.

Monica Trasandes, the director of Spanish-language media at LGBT group GLAAD, told The Advocate, it is a "difficult subject for some people, who truly feel the chant is not meant in an offensive way in that context.

"Something we work hard to explain is that the intention of the user is not what’s most relevant, but the word’s history and its power. That word is used as an anti-gay slur every day in Mexico and Latin America, and so hearing a whole stadium full of people shout it is incredibly painful for many Latinx LGBTQ people and has to stop."

Now that the Mexican federation has gone back to defending the chant, FIFA must consider its next step. There is a precedent. It handed Chile a one-game ban from playing in its national stadium in Santiago for its fans' homophobic chants.

8 comments about "More fines to Mexico for anti-gay chant -- but is that enough?".
  1. uffe gustafsson, October 6, 2016 at 10:38 p.m.

    I don't get it why soccer fans around the world are so insistent on attacking homosexuals.
    From Russia to Italy, turkey and Latin America they all focusing on gays.
    What's up with that?
    It's really rediciuos it's not like the sport have lots of gay players or more then other sports.
    It really giving the sport a bad reputation.
    Don't think of another sport that have that kind of spectators.
    It really need to go away.
    And even having the empty stadium as a punishment don't seem to stop it, look at Russia they have not stopped their ugly fans from continue their insults.
    Time to throw out fans and ban them from attending, that should stop it. Every game get the loud ones and escort them to parking lot.

  2. uffe gustafsson, October 6, 2016 at 10:42 p.m.

    And that goes for fans throwing bananas to African players. It's so ugly I can't imagine sitting next to such an aweful human and not knocking him in the face. Disgraceful.

  3. David V replied, October 8, 2016 at 10:03 p.m.

    Uffe, well, at least you are the mark of consistency here... the name calling crime is so heinous that you get to "knock(ing) him in the face"

  4. Mark Landefeld, October 7, 2016 at 1:29 p.m.

    1) How long in the U.S. did it take for the nation as a whole to realize the "N-word" was offensive to African Americans and BECAUSE THEY SAID IT IS OFFENSIVE, right-thinking people stopped using it. This will almost certainly be a long-term issue.

    2) Start taking away home WCQ matches and see if change accelerates. If FIFA & CONCACAF aren't ready to do that, then this is just political correctness without a desire to effect change.

  5. Ric Fonseca, October 7, 2016 at 4:05 p.m.

    Mike, to the guy that equated this ugly chant to the Mexican National Anthem, this is just as bad and plain ignorant of him to do so. That guy clearly and very probably doesn't even know the words much less of the Mexican or US National Anthems!

  6. Ginger Peeler, October 7, 2016 at 8:34 p.m.

    Mark...there are still a lot of people that use that term because "that's what they call each other". Boorish behavior and without redemption. Uffe and Ric...I'm with you 100%. AA...I think your translation to lady's man is distorted. Please see:
    "ladies' man or lady's man......
    n.....
    a man who is fond of, attentive to, and successful with women.....
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014.....
    And just because people are fond of yelling crude words at soccer players doesn't mean it's okay. It's rude and crude. And, yes, we do see that, sometimes a lot, in other sports. That still doesn't make it right, especially because it's so often coming from young males who've been happily imbibing. And "their mommas didn't raise them right". Instead of calling people names, let's treat each other with consideration.

  7. Kurt Thomas, October 10, 2016 at 1:34 a.m.

    I attended the Club America Galaxy game recently and the slur was in common use even by Mexican American fans. I saw one father hold up his 18 month son, teaching him the chant. It was deplorable.

    One women with children asked the people sitting behind her to knock of the chanting. She had to go get the ushers to get them to stop.

    I think that it is time for people to grow up and think of something else to yell. The point is some people consider it offensive so it should stop.

  8. Margaret Manning, October 10, 2016 at 11:15 p.m.

    Let 'em play in an empty stadium at home a few times. That might have an effect.

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