After years of fines and threats, the world governing body for soccer, FIFA, placed a more stringent penalty on Mexico’s national soccer federation Friday for homophobic slurs by fans of El Tri. The Mexican men’s national soccer team will play its next two home CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums.
The matches affected will be the Sept. 2 qualifiers against Jamaica and Oct. 7 against Canada. The Mexican Football Federation was also fined 60,000 Swiss francs — a little more than $65,000.
The impetus for FIFA’s actions centered around actions by fans during two Olympic qualifying games in March. The chant, the well-known and infamous anti-gay slur “puto”, has been heard continuously at recent matches, including from visiting Mexico fans at the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and finals in Denver. The chant was so frequent in Mexico’s shootout win over Costa Rica on June 3 that the match was temporarily stopped.
FIFA will also investigate similar incidents during a friendly against Iceland on May 29. These recent incidences are the latest example of what has been a consistent pattern. The Mexico’s national federation was also fined 12 times during the 2018 World Cup qualifying process and during the World Cup finals in Russia.
In response, the Mexican Football Federation has attempted to reach fans directly through announcements at the stadiums. This year, the national federation also initiated a social media-based ad campaign through the twin themes of support and tradition.
These efforts have been blunted by past contradictory messages that have come from club and federation officials, and even media, which validated a toxic fan culture. One such example came from former Mexico national team boss Miguel Herrera during the 2014 World Cup when he said that the chant was “not that bad”. During the 2018 World Cup, despite being fined for conduct in one match, Mexico’s fans were cleared of similar allegations by FIFA in another match.
Among El Tri faithful in the Twittersphere there is a good deal of dismay and worry over where future sanctions could lead. Much of it follows the thoughts of FMF President Yon de Luisa. In an announcement made after the FIFA sanctions came down, de Luisa noted that future penalties could include include possible disqualification from the 2022 World Cup and Mexico losing the opportunity to host matches of the 2026 World Cup alongside the U.S. and Canada.
“I want to make a call for reflection to all Mexican supporters, so that they understand the meaning and scope of this type of attitudes, which, inevitably, cause us to distance ourselves from each other, even to the point of missing an international competition, with everything important ahead,” De Luisa said.