Did Mexico stop the homophobic slur threatening its national soccer team?

MEXICO CITY – Mexican football officials seemed to breathe a sigh of relief last week: An anti-gay chant for decades at soccer matches that has led to penalties, fines and threats to participate in the World Cup in the past few matches.

But Mikel Areola, president of Liga MX, the first division of Mexican football, issued a warning at a press conference last week. “Who is screaming? [it] He has no place on the field. We have put in place a protocol to keep people away from stadiums, but hopefully there will be no further penalties.”

FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, sanctioned Mexico’s men’s national soccer team on November 1 for repeatedly using the chant “p—“, which translates to anti-gay slurs often shouted at gay men. At most games, Mexico fans get louder when the opposing goalkeeper lines up to take the goal kick and shout “B—!” In unison as the goalkeeper kicks the ball.

Sanctions forced the team to play the next two World Cup qualifiers at home in empty stadiums, and the Mexican soccer federation was fined about $109,000.

Mexico appealed the sanctions, but FIFA confirmed the sanctions on Monday.

The dispute is over whether the punitive measures will lead to a real shift away from fans who use the offensive term in games – and reassert why it is so offensive and problematic in the first place.

Guillermo Osorno, host of the LGBTQ podcast The Future is Ours, warns that the punitive approach of penalties and fines is not the most appropriate in this case because, paradoxically, it incites the fiercest hatred on the part of football fans.

“It is positive that FIFA and the federation recognize that the shouting is homophobic, but when they insist on punishing them, it creates more anger against the gay community,” said Osorno, who is based in Mexico City. He doesn’t go to the World Cup he’ll end up being homosexual because we’re “too sensitive” – ​​it’s awful. ”

Claudia Pedraza, who specializes in gender and feminism issues, is a member of Barra Feminista, a soccer fan club in Mexico that promotes itself as an alternative space for fans of the game. She said the frequent use of anti-gay slurs was a cultural issue that wasn’t really addressed by sanctions or ad campaigns trying to stop fans from yelling “p—“.

“Campaigns do not use the word ‘homophobia.’ Pedraza said they are trying to eliminate the outcry from a ‘respect’ perspective and that this hurts the fans and affects the teams, but they didn’t mention the real problem.”

She said a cultural change is necessary at all levels until the use of offensive terminology in various sports stadiums is stopped – and this will not be achieved with penalties or fines.

“These practices must be eliminated from the same coaches and managers who express themselves in this way with the players,” she said.

The long history of anti-gay strife

For decades, chanting has plagued Mexico’s most popular sport, dating back to the early 2000s when it was uttered at club team matches before becoming a prominent hymn while playing for the national team. During the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the Moroccan Football Association was fined 11 times for the repeated use of chant.

When Mexico faced the United States in the Nations League final in June, the cheer was heard again and The match had to be suspended temporarily. Recently, officials warned that the cheer could cost Mexico a trip to the 2022 World Cup and participation in the hosting duties for the 2026 World Cup.

Some fans do not view the hymn as anti-gay, saying that it has multiple cultural meanings and is not intended to be slanderous.

For Arturo Rodriguez, a soccer fan from San Luis Potosi in central Mexico, the hymn is not meant to be anti-gay. I personally don’t see that [as] Rodriguez said. “It would be offensive if it was gay-oriented, but in this case, it’s completely different.”

Experts on gender issues and activists from the LGBTQ+ community see it differently, noting the slander is discriminatory and abusive and an example of the country’s serious problem with gender issues and violence.

“Non-LGBT people use this word in defamation because, in their view, it means weakness and cowardice, that you are not enough, that you are worse than being a woman,” said Alex Oroy, CEO of It Gets Better Mexico. An organization that works to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Oroi, who said screaming at soccer matches is only the tip of the iceberg in a chain of attacks that, for many LGBT people, begins in childhood.

“Long before you know what you have [sexual] Your orientation or your identity, suspected by the way you walk and how you speak.” “My worst memories of school abuse were in sports because they are not safe places for us.”

The Pancho Villa Army, one of the largest groups of fans for the Mexican national teams, convicted The use of swearing. “We in no way support any anti-gay chants or any form of violence against our opposition during game days, online or anywhere.”

The group said it was hosting forums on canceling the hymn. “Change is possible if we are all willing to do our part in the right way.”

The Mexican national team started a vigorous PSA campaign in 2016 that featured the team’s top players in an effort to thwart the use of hymns.

In a recent campaign video, national team goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa stressed that continued use of the hymn “could cost us a trip to the World Cup”.

Prior to 2019, most penalties for hymns were limited to small fines imposed on the Mexican Fútbol Federation.

New FIFA protocols were added to the Disciplinary Code in 2019 to address racism and discrimination in football and “combat this appalling attack on the fundamental human rights of individuals”.

Despite all these measures, offensive language and homophobia continued to be used at the highest levels of Mexican football. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, coach of Liga MX Juarez, was recently fined and suspended for three matches after making homophobic and sexist comments after a match.

On November 6, he began a press conference by addressing reporters and asking, “Are there any old women? No right? Not that. F—?” He later apologized for his “inappropriate” comments.

Mexico ranks second after Brazil in combating LGBT violence in Latin America, according to the National Observatory of Gay Hate Crimes in Mexico by the Fundación Arcoíris or Rainbow Foundation.

Reports from the Mexican organization Letter S, an advocacy group, said that from 2013 to 2018, there were 473 murders of people from the LGBT+ community in Mexico. In 2020 alone, 79 hate-motivated murders against members of the LGBT community were reported, more than half of which were transgender women and nearly a quarter were gay men.

Not only Mexico

But Mexico is not the only soccer team that has been arrested and is forced to respond to the behavior of its fans.

During the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia and Uruguay were fined for chants of spectators shouting anti-gay chants.

The Hungarian Football Association has been fined around $114,470 by UEFA and ordered to play its next matches without fans due to “racist abuse by fans and anti-gay banners in the stands” at Euro 2020.

Many also pointed to FIFA to sanction Mexico over anti-gay chants – with Russia and Qatar, countries where homosexuality is criminalized, allowed to host the 2022 and 2018 World Cups, respectively.

Nasser Al-Khater, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Qatar Football Championship, recently mentioned That LGBTQ+ people visiting the country for matches should not feel insecure or threatened, but he hopes they “do not show affection in public and respect the local culture”.

Qatar’s penal code states that the act of provoking or seducing a man to commit acts of “sodomy and debauchery” is punishable by three years in prison. Following his remarks, organizations such as ADI LGTBI+, FELGTBI+, Fundación Triángulo, Gay Games and Amnesty International condemned Kalima Al Khater and once again requested a change of venue for the tournament.

Currently, Mexico is third in the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup 2022 qualifiers with six matches remaining. CONCACAF is the regional association representing the national teams of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The top three CONCACAF teams get automatic berths at the World Cup.

Mexico’s next home game with fans allowed in the stadium will be on March 24, against the United States.

For LGBT activists and human rights activists, real change will go beyond sanctions and punitive measures and will include training and continuing education.

“The important thing is training on gender issues and non-discrimination strategies,” Pedraza said. “These are the big omissions made by all the clubs and all the federations.”

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