As Russia hosts the final days of the FIFA World Cup 2018, Mexico's team has drawn the attention of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) organizers and the press, but it's not for their stellar skills, but rather their fans’ foul calls. Did Mexican fans violate FIFA rules, or were they just celebrating their favorite team?
After the Mexico national team (known as “El Tri” because of their tricolor uniform that mirrors the colors of the national flag) played their first game against Germany, FIFA announced the opening of a disciplinary case against chants used by their fans during the game.
El Tri fans customarily scream the word ‘puto’ (Mexican Spanish for ‘faggot’) in unison every time the rival goalkeeper restarts a play by putting the ball in motion (especially through a goal kick).
Deutsche Welle, the German media outlet with a global presence, reported the offenses by Mexican fans in this way:
Miles de hinchas mexicanos insultaron a Neuer [portero del equipo Alemán] el domingo durante la victoria de México por 1-0 sobre Alemania.
Thousands of Mexican fans insulted Neuer [goal keeper of the German team] last Sunday during Mexico's 1-0 victory over Germany.
Offensive or just an expression?
The term ‘puto’ is essentially pejorative, vulgar and degrading. In daily language (in every social class in Mexico) it is also used as an insult to describe a gay male or a female perceived as promiscuous or engaged in sex work. This is consistent with definitions provided by Fundéu, the regulatory authority on Spanish language in mainstream media, and the Royal Spanish Academy of Language. The Mexican Federation of Football, however, maintains the opposite position, denying that the expression is insulting.
It is not the first time that the Mexico national team finds itself embroiled in this controversy. Four years ago in Brazil, Mexican fans also shouted this chant on several occasions. The same happened in 2017, also in Russia, during the Confederations Cup organized by FIFA.
The website Reporte Índigo has gathered opinions from different Mexican personalities (all male) about the controversial chant. Global Voices selected two as an example:
Daniel Giménez Cacho (actor):
No, ‘puto’ no es discriminatorio, ‘puto’ es una palabra de un prefijo náhuatl, que es putotzin y que significa ‘el que lo lea’… es un chiste (risas). Por supuesto que es discriminatorio, yo tenía problemas con eso desde la canción tan popular del grupo Molotov (la canción ‘Puto’), a mí esa canción no me gustaba, no me gusta; creo que hay que cuidar el lenguaje, los discursos de odio. La violencia contra la mujer, por ejemplo, eso no lo va acabar ningún tipo de ley si no modificamos la cultura nuestra, y la cultura empieza por cómo nos relacionamos, cómo hablamos, qué palabras usamos, y hay que ser conscientes de ellas. Yo creo.
No, ‘puto’ is not discriminatory, ‘puto’ is a word from the Nahuatl language, which is ‘putozin’ and it means ‘the one who reads it'…it is a joke (laughs) [Referring to a common joke seen online saying ‘the one who reads this is ‘puto’]. Of course it is discriminatory. I have had problems with that word since the very popular song by the group Molotov (the song ‘Puto’). I didn't like that song, I don't like it, I think we have to take care of the language we use, hate speech. For example, violence against women won't end with any kind of law if we don't change our culture and culture begins with how relate to each other, how we speak, what words we use, and we have to be aware of them. I believe.
Paco Ignacio Taibo II (writer):
Gritarle ‘puto’ al portero del enemigo yo creo que no tiene connotaciones homofóbicas, es simplemente una injuria, un insulto para desestabilizar al enemigo. Yo espero que se practique los 16 de septiembre [día en que los mexicanos celebran la independencia] frente a Palacio también ¿no? Me parece que está siendo demasiada bronca de muy poca cosa, lo políticamente correcto rara vez corresponde con lo políticamente justo y real.
I don't think screaming ‘puto’ to the enemy's goal keeper has homophobic connotations, it is simply a slur, an insult to destabilize the enemy. I hope that it is also chanted on September 16 [the day that Mexicans celebrate independence] in front of the governmental palace, no? It seems to me that this is being blown out of proportion, the politically correct rarely corresponds to the politically fair and real.
According to Andoni Bello, head of the Gay Football Selection (Or Tri Gay, an organization defending LGBTIQ rights), the screaming ‘puto’ is offensive, and suggested that fans should find other ways of giving a hard time to rival teams.
According to FIFA rules, as shown in the infographic created by Pictoline (a visual graphics company), sanctions relating to the use of homophobic or racist expressions can affect El Tri's outcome in the World Cup, either by accrediting defeat, subtracting points obtained, or in the worst case, expelling them from the competition:
In addition to being considered a homophobic scream, the “EEEEEH P…” could cause serious problems for the Mexican National Team. This is what the FIFA rules state:
1. The association or the club will be sanctioned with fine of no less than 26,000 euros [$30,275 United States Dollars] FINED: (this has already happened).
2. In the case of serious violations, supplemental sanctions could be levied such as:
a. Bar fans from entering the stadiums.
b. A defeat of three goals to zero.
c. The subtraction of points.
d. Or even exclusion from the competition (and we were doing so well!).
Through Twitter, fans have been asked not to repeat this insult in subsequent El Tri games:
Incondicionales en Rusia, demostremos que somos capaces de comportarnos. #NoGritesPuto 🙏🏼
— Selección Nacional (@miseleccionmx) 21 de junio de 2018
Unconditional in Russia, let's show that we are can behave ourselves. #NoShoutPuto 🙏🏼Check the Rules of Global Civility. ➡ https://t.co/WYGqPDpoAZ #NadaNosDetiene | #Rusia2018 pic.twitter.com/TAKEpBWJ5w
— National Teaml (@miseleccionmx) June 21, 2018
Influential Twitter user Gabriel Guerra who has more than 92,000 followers commented:
Atento mensaje a los aficionados mexicanos en Rusia:
Puto el que grite puto.
— Gabriel Guerra C (@gabrielguerrac) 21 de junio de 2018
Pay attention to the message to the message to the Mexican fans in Russia: ‘Puto’ he who screams ‘puto’.
— Gabriel Guerra C (@gabrielguerrac) June 21, 2018
Returning to the field
Of the eight groups marked by letters between A through H, Mexico classified in Group F, competing against South Korea, Sweden, and Germany. The team that earns first place in Group F will face off in round eight of the finals against the team that occupies second place in Group E comprised of Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland. At the same time, the team that occupies second place in Group F will compete against the team that won first place in Group E.
Before the start of the worldwide joust, El Tri had achieved 15th place out of 209 positions in the FIFA global ranking. Mexico has a good chance of winning as long as their fans can “show that [they] can behave [themselves].”