Mexico could miss the next World Cup because of a homophobic chant from fans
The Mexican National Team is urging its fans to stop using a popular chant before they face serious financial and sporting consequences.
Before the start of a friendly match between the Mexican National Team and Panama on Wednesday, June 30, their captain gave a speech to fans in Nashville, Tennessee.
Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made an indirect plea to supporters to stop using a homophobic chant during games.
“On behalf of the Mexican National Team, the entire staff and all the players, we are very pleased to be here with you tonight. And just as we are glad that you are here with us, we want you to continue coming to the stadiums and to continue supporting us in the United States and in Mexico,” the captain said.
FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, handed the Mexican Football Federation a fine of 60,000 Swiss Francs (about $65,200) on June 18 and suspended spectators from attending two of their next official games on home soil.
This came after fans used the offensive chant excessively during the 2020 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Referees had to stop a friendly match against Iceland and the semi-final of the CONCACAF Nations League against Costa Rica.
"On behalf of the fans who want to see the national team compete in the Qatar 2022 World Cup, I ask you to please stop the shouting," said Yon de Luisa, president of the Mexican Soccer Federation, at a press conference upon being sanctioned by FIFA.
The chant is performed when the opponent’s goalkeeper goes for a goal kick and it was popularized by Mexico National Team fans during the Olympic Qualifying tournament for the 2004 Athens games.
Since then, it has been heard at four world cups. However, since the 2014 edition in Brazil, FIFA has asked the Mexican soccer officials to eliminate the tradition.
Fans and even some players defend the chant by saying it is not targeted at gay people, but instead, demonstrates the passion they bring to games.
“They don't do it with the intention of discriminating against anyone, they do it to annoy the goalkeeper and to show the opposing team that the other team has impressive support. I don't see anything wrong with that. FIFA I think is taking things very differently,” said former Mexico striker Oribe Peralta.
Punishments against Mexico could rise to the level of docking the team of points for World Cup qualifiers and even leaving them out of next year’s competition, but here is where many suspect that FIFA has ulterior motives.
If the governing body of the sport cares so deeply about equality and LGBTQ+ rights, then why did they choose to host their largest tournament in Qatar?
Homosexuality is illegal in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country and is punishable with up to three years in prison.
Those constructing the stadiums for the event are working in conditions likened to modern day slavery.
The Guardian reported in February that more than 6,500 migrant workers have died in the 10 years the country has spent building these stadiums. Summer days can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit and it results in many dying from heat stress and working for several hours.
Mexico is also currently scheduled to co-host the 2026 World Cup along with North American neighbors Canada and the U.S. It will be the first time the tournament will be held in three countries.
The 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan was the first time two countries hosted the world’s most-viewed sporting event.
If the homophobic chant continues, it has been rumored that Mexico could lose its place as a host of the competition. However, some believe FIFA is using this as a threat to not pay taxes for conducting operations in the country while the tournament is being played.
Both Canada and Mexico were going to have 10 games each in the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. hosting the rest of the 60 fixtures.
Fans were outraged by this distribution of games because Mexico has a stronger soccer tradition than the other two countries.
The three host cities in Mexico are Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City.
Being a World Cup also means that you automatically qualify for it. The 2026 edition will also expand the tournament from 32 to 48 from across all confederations.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, said in March, before the sanction resulting from the homophobic chant, that Mexico’s position as a host is not guaranteed.
“Because of the World Cup we are having discussions at the moment. Because of the three venues in Mexico and Canada, because of the COVID situation we have not been able to travel to see the situation, at the end of the year we will make decisions, at the end of the month we will go to the sites; at the end of the year, we will have teleconferences and meetings by Zoom. We still do not have a firm decision in this sense,” he said.
The statement was puzzling because it was believed FIFA sent representatives to the three countries who formed the joint bid for the tournament before voting in 2018 to allow them to host.
It is speculated that FIFA is intimidating Mexico because they reached an agreement with the country’s former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to not pay taxes to the government so the governing body can retain as much of the profits as possible.
Current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has said his government will not allow these same conditions.
“We do not do it in other cases, to any company, because the contributions are the ones that allow us to have a budget, which is money for the development and welfare of the people," he said.
The populist leader’s term ends in 2024, two years before the World Cup they plan on hosting, and he cannot run for reelection.
FIFA forcing the Mexican Football Federation to root out homophobia is a commendable act, but their motives are questionable.
Are they doing it to promote equality in the sport or for one sided deals that allow them to evade taxes?