Oh boy. As if FIFA and the Mexican fanbase weren’t at odds already, the Confederations Cup might be the tipping towards unadulterated animosity. Reports this week confirm that the tournament, held in Russia, will play host to a new FIFA three-step program towards shutting down homophobic and offensive chants, a category the infamous “puto” falls into for the world soccer organization.
Like it or hate it, the “puto” chant has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent years. FIFA has fined Mexico a whopping eight times for it, but that hasn’t stopped fans (why would it?) from yelling it out at every possible instance. Just this week, it was clearly audible during the US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier at the Estadio Azteca. As a result, FIFA is upping its game, introducing a program that allows referees to stop games if needed.
The first response to offensive chants will be a public service announcement at the stadium, telling fans to stop or further action will be taken. It’s unlikely this will have any effect on the crowd, and in fact, it might rile them up more to keep doing what they were doing. That’s where steps 2 and 3 come in: the referee can first stop the match until the chants subside, and if they do not, he can actually cancel the game outright.
Affecting the game itself, rather than the bank account of the Mexican federation, might actually work to curb chants FIFA doesn’t want to hear at its events. However, it likely won’t be endearing itself to Mexican fans who believe the chant is more relevant for its historical tradition than the homophobic undertones. It will be difficult for a referee to stop a match indefinitely in the face of an angry crowd, but if it’s the right referee and the right moment, one stoppage might be all it takes to stop the chant for good.
It’s important to note here that it is hypocritical of FIFA to crack down on the chant without addressing the elephants in the room: Russia and Qatar will be hosting the next two World Cups, and both countries have horrific histories when it comes to the persecution of LGBTQ communities. Sure, FIFA coming down hard on offensive chants is a positive, but we can’t pat them on the back when gay people are still being killed in countries hosting the biggest event in world soccer.