Could an Anti-LGBTQ Fan Chant Imperil Mexico's World Cup Soccer Chances?

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 14, 2021

El Tri's Carlos Salcedo, in black, vie for the ball against U.S. soccer team member Christian Pulisic in a July 7, 2019 match.
El Tri's Carlos Salcedo, in black, vie for the ball against U.S. soccer team member Christian Pulisic in a July 7, 2019 match.  (Source:AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The use of an anti-LGBTQ chant by fans of the Mexican men's national team, El Tri, has already prompted sanctions against the team. If fans don't desist, Mexico might not make it to Qatar next year for the World Cup, and could even lose its status as a co-host of the every-four-years event in 2026, ESPN reports.

"As the overseer of the country's national teams, the Mexican [Football Federation] (FMF) had ignored this behavior even in the face of FIFA punishment," ESPN recounted, noting that El Tri "has been fined 15 times since the 2014 World Cup because of the chant."

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) governs professional soccer across the globe.

The FMF recently slapped "the most significant sanctions to date" on the team, ESPN added: "Two official home games behind closed doors," meaning that fans won't be allowed to attend.

Despite all of that, "the federation is fearful that defiant Mexico followers at this month's CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S." could lead to "dire consequences such as a ban from next year's World Cup in Qatar."

The word that fans chant has various meanings, but the one that's offensive to the LGBTQ community translates more or less to "gay prostitute," Sporting News noted in its coverage about the chant.

Sporting News explained that El Tri fans shout the slur "when an opposing goalkeeper puts the ball into play on goal kicks" in order to "intimidate the 'keeper and the opposing team."

Defenders of the chant argue that the word has various meanings, and deny any anti-LGBTQ animus. "But there's no getting around the fact that it's a derogatory term that's demeaning to the gay community," the article acknowledged.

FIFA "has made it clear that it will be cracking down on racism and homophobia in the game around the world," the article went on to say, with the result that the "Mexican soccer federation is now pulling out all the stops in an effort to stamp out the chant, although they didn't acknowledge it was a discriminatory chant until a few years ago."

"The chant is discriminatory and is moving us away from FIFA competitions," Yon de Luisa, the president of the Mexican Football Federation, warned in a recent press conference, ESPN recalled. "To those who think it's fun to [do it], I have news for you. It's not."

In one recent instance of the chant leading to repercussions, a game between the U.S. and Mexico in Denver was halted for three minutes in the second half of the match.

The fear is that fans won't be swayed even by the possibility that their conduct could hurt their team. ESPN detailed how "the perceived hypocrisy of FIFA policing the behavior of Mexico fans in the stands but remaining silent on laws oppressive to LGBTQ+ communities in Russia and Qatar — the most recent World Cup host and the next in line, respectively — has also fueled resistance" from the fans, who insist that the chant is part of the culture.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.