The Mexican Football Federation is planning to appeal a US$20,000 ($28,930) fine from FIFA over what football’s troubled governing body regards a homophobic chant long used by the country’s supporters, sparking debate about whether it has been culturally misunderstood.
Mexico is one of four federations to be fined by FIFA for its fans’ use of the term “Ehhh…p–o!” during recent 2018 World Cup qualifiers – a slang term meaning homosexual man or male prostitute – which is often directed at an opposition goalkeeper when they are preparing to take a goalkick.
Mexican fans have long argued the practice – which was spawned in 2003 when Atlas fans chanted it at their former goalkeeper who had joined bitter rivals Chivas – is a light-hearted effort to distract the shotstopper.
But despite charging Mexico with improper conduct after fans chanted the term in a World Cup match against Cameroon in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has gone a step further and fined the country’s association after it was again heard in the terraces during their 3-0 victory over El Salvador in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in November.
Argentina, Peru and Uruguay were also fined US$20,000 ($28,930) after the chant was adopted across Latin America, while Chile has been fined US$70,000 ($101,250) for repeat offences at four different matches.
The Mexican Football Federation is the only one to publicly claim they will challenge the sanction.
Mexican fans have long considered the chant harmless and the national side’s coach during the 2014 World Cup, Miguel Herrera, defended its use claiming it was derived from the ancient indigenous language of Nahuatl from a word he jokingly said means “to force a bad clearance by the goalkeeper”.
Other fans have argued the term is not aimed at gay people and foreigners don’t understand some of their language culturally, with the term also meaning “dumb ass” or “bitch”.
Guillermo Cantu, the general secretary of the Mexican federation, told ESPN the chant “is not discriminatory” and it is often misunderstood “culturally”.
But it hasn’t washed with Mexico’s gay rights campaigners, who claim the shouting from the stands is not just an attempt to prevent an opposition goalkeeper from his job but it is also used to treat them with contempt and challenge their masculinity.
Mexico, the world No.23 whose side includes former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier Hernandez, top their World Cup qualifying group after two matches.
They will face second-placed Canada in late March before hosting Honduras in September and will progress to the final stage of qualifying for North and Central America if they can finish in the top two in their group.