Mexican fans are some of the most liked and recognizable in world football. With their happy attitude, a welcoming approach, and quirky costumes they are certain to be favorites among other fans and players. Recently, however, it hasn’t been the same story with FIFA and their own squad.
With Mexico’s most recent victory over Trinidad and Tobago, they are on course to a historic World Cup Qualifying campaign. Currently on 21 points, one more victory would lift this Mexico side past the 2006 World Cup team that achieved 22, and the all-time record holders Costa Rica in 2001 with 23 points. Even with a draw against Honduras on Tuesday, Mexico would become the first side from CONCACAF to remain unbeaten in the qualifiers since the 1998 World Cup cycle, in which El Tri were undefeated in the Hexagonal round.
Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has done his job in guiding his squad to a successful qualifying campaign for Russia 2018. Mexico earned a spot in next summer’s World Cup with 2 games to spare. This makes the trend in Mexican social media of #FueraOsorio (Osorio out) from some fans hard to understand. But the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) may want to be paying attention to another loud chant by the fans.
The infamous homophobic chant made by Mexican fans once the opposing keeper kicks the ball, has made numerous headlines since the last World Cup, and was finally noticed by FIFA in November 2015 in a match against El Salvador. FIFA ruled the chant as inappropriate conduct, and has since fined the FMF 10 out of 14 times Mexico have played for a total of $157,000. The most recent fine on Tuesday was $10,000 after Mexican supporters were heard yelling the homophobic slur towards Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas last month.
Since the 2016 Confederations Cup in Russia, the FMF and some fans have urged others to stop using the homophobic chant and instead yell “Mexico” whenever the goalkeeper kicks the ball. This seems to have worked throughout the tournament because no fan wanted to see the threat of the match being cancelled by the referee. The problem does not only happen for national team games.
The Mexican league has seen this chant occur for years now and critics believe that is where it should be handled first. Some local clubs have urged their own supporters to stop the chant and instead yell out their own team’s name. A handful of clubs have promised to donate money to local charities every time the fans are able to keep their end of the bargain.
Whilst the chant has been targeted by organizations, inside and outside of world football who see the chant as homophobic and offensive, some fans and players claim that the mainstream has misconstrued the meaning of the chant. In Mexico, the chant is just merely a taunt, and in no way meant to be homophobic. That being said, Mexican fans should be aware of the taunt of choice the entire fan base use, and who they are being viewed by.
On Tuesday, Mexico had to play their home match outside of Mexico City, due to the catastrophic 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds of people and damaged the city. That gave San Luis Potosi a chance to host a national team game for the first time since 2007. Before the match, the FMF encouraged supporters to shout, “Fuerza Mexico” at each goal kick. The loose translation is “stay strong Mexico”, and was the phrase used commonly on social media after the devastating earthquake. The effort worked to an extent.
The homophobic slur was heard a handful of times whenever the home team went through a rough patch in the game. Especially when they conceded first midway through the game. Still, at least to some home fans, the chant did not matter, as everyone in the stadium went home thinking about the pre match tributes that unfolded that day. First responders, including a rescue dog named “Frida”, came onto the pitch before the game to a huge round of applause. They stayed on the field with both team players as there was a minute of silence to honour those who lost their lives due to the earthquake. It seems only events like these can cause the chant to be muted.
After breezing through the qualifying campaign, fans and TV pundits have questioned whether the Mexican team can step up to the challenge of playing well on the big stage against better opposition. They have gotten away with it at times by not getting punished enough and the same can be said about the fans in the stadium. They can be remembered as a great set of fans in Russia during the World Cup- who supported an exciting team of quality players- or as fans who were homophobic on a world stage and caused their team to be punished heavily by FIFA.
Featured Image: Celso Flores