The Mexican soccer federation and regional governing body CONCACAF are making efforts to eradicate a homophobic chant used by a segment of Mexican soccer fans, but the chant has resurfaced during the 2021 Gold Cup.
The referee twice stopped the Group A match between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago because of the homophobic chant. Stopping a match is part of a three-step protocol established by FIFA in 2019 to address homophobic and racist behavior by crowds at matches worldwide.
What is the homophobic chant?
The practice is believed to have started in the early 2000s. Mexican national team supporters shout a Spanish-language homophobic slur (“p—,” which roughly translates to “gay prostitute”) when an opposing goalkeeper puts the ball into play on a goal kick. The chant was supposedly intended to intimidate the ‘keeper and the opposing team, but the sport’s authorities have been working for several years to stamp out its use.
MORE: Mexico soccer officials fear worse punishment in future
The chant gained worldwide notoriety during the 2014 World Cup, and although condemnation of the chant grew wider, it returned four years later at the 2018 World Cup during Mexico’s victory over Germany. Mexico’s soccer federation has been fined on multiple occasions by FIFA — more than 15 times over the years, by one count — and the punishments are only escalating. FIFA’s latest sanction last June included ordering two official home matches to be played behind closed doors.
Mexican soccer officials, who are using every opportunity and means to appeal to fans to refrain from using the chant, fear that future discipline could include a points deduction or even expulsion from official competitions.
The efforts to change fan behavior have increased in recent months with marketing campaigns, press conference appeals, video spots, stadium signage and messages from players broadcast on TV, played on stadium video boards and delivered live before kickoff.
Although progress has been made — Mexico played three matches before the Gold Cup without incident — the chant has still reared its head from time to time, including most recently at the Gold Cup.
“It worries everyone, of course it’s going to worry us,” Mexico manager Tata Martino said July 13 when asked whether he is concerned about the chant and its consequences. “I think it’s impossible to have more messages and campaigns than what the [Mexican] federation has already done. Now it’s on the people [fans]. The request for this not to happen again will continue, but the ball is definitely in someone else’s court.”
The three-step protocol
CONCACAF, the organizer of the Gold Cup, launched a campaign against the chant and has adopted FIFA’s three-step protocol for dealing with it during matches. In addition to ejecting fans from the stadium, the steps include:
- Step 1: Match stoppage and warning to fans
- Step 2: Match suspension and players moved to locker room
- Step 3: Abandonment of the match
Mexico’s opening match in the Gold Cup required the referee to implement Step 1 of the protocol after the chant was heard among fans toward the end of the game.
In the match Mexico vs Trinidad and Tobago match, the referee has stopped the match for discriminatory chanting.
This action is part of Concacaf’s anti discrimination protocol
— Gold Cup (@GoldCup) July 11, 2021
In the wake of that incident, CONCACAF issued a direct and pointed public statement expressing its disappointment in fans who used the homophobic slur in the face of every appeal made against it.
“Concacaf is extremely disappointed at the discriminatory language chanted by some Mexico fans during their Gold Cup match against Trinidad and Tobago at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, July 10. The ‘goalkeeper chant’ was heard despite a significant Concacaf antidiscrimination campaign delivered in recent weeks and extensive efforts by the FMF to make clear that it is unacceptable . . .
“Concacaf will continue to operate its What’s Wrong Is Wrong antidiscrimination campaign and, should it be necessary, will activate protocols which include ejecting fans if they engage in discriminatory behavior and suspending the match.
“We urge fans to leave the discriminatory goalkeeper chant in the past and to focus on making football a positive and welcoming environment for all fans and communities.”