FIFA has opened an investigation into the use of a chant by Mexican soccer fans that is apparently derogatory towards gay people.
During their country’s matches in the World Cup, fans have been chanting the word “Puto” at opposing players, a word that has multiple meanings including “male prostitute” and “homosexual.” During Mexico’s game against Brazil last Monday, fans shouted the term every time Brazil’s goalkeeper took a goal kick.
Mexico is now facing possible sanctions for “improper conduct of spectators.” FIFA has a “zero-tolerance stance on any form of discrimination, including on account of sexual orientation,” a spokesperson of the organization said Friday.
Conapred, Mexico’s anti-discrimination agency, said that the chant poorly represents the country. ”The cry of ’puto’ is an expression of disdain and rejection,” the agency said. “The way in which this collective yell is given in stadiums isn’t innocent; it reflects the homophobia, machismo and misogyny that our society still suffers.”
Many fans, players, and coaches, however, insist that the chant is harmless. “We’re with our fans,” the team’s manager Miguel Herrera told the Associated Press. ”It’s something they do to pressure the opposing goalkeeper.”
Some say that the slur is not necessarily homophobic, as it is used in many different ways. The word “has the meaning that one wishes to give it,” news anchor Joaquin López-Dóriga wrote in a column on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The director of national teams at the Mexican Football Federation, Héctor González Iñárritu, said that though the country could be fined, the chanting is not something that FIFA can control. ”This is something that has been in the [Mexican] League for a long time,” he said, “and we can’t stop the fans from expressing themselves.”
ESPN says it will do its best to prevent the chant from being audible on-air during Mexico’s game against Croatia this Monday afternoon.