The “Puto” Chant is Back at the Gold Cup, and It’s All CONCACAF’s Fault

Lead Photo: Fans of Mexico chant during the first half of a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C match against El Salvador. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.
Fans of Mexico chant during the first half of a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C match against El Salvador. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.
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The most controversial chant in soccer is back at it again. Weeks after FIFA and the FMF tried–and mostly succeeded– to censor the infamous Mexican “puto” chant during the Confederations Cup, CONCACAF is attempting to do the same.

To that end, the Gold Cup organizers enlisted players to read a pledge, trying to convince fans that they should set a positive example for kids by not shouting the chant, which can be interpreted as homophobic. CONCACAF also empowered stadium security to eject offenders who tried to start the chant. Hell, they even took steps to devise a technical solution that would block the chant from coming through television viewers’ speakers.

After all of these methods were met with resistance from fans who claim the chant isn’t homphobic–but rather that is a tradition for Mexican fans–CONCACAF acknowledged that this will be a long term issue. “Success won’t happen overnight,” said Philippe Moggio, the federation’s General Secretary.  “We are tackling this knowing that it’s going to be a long-term, incremental effort.”

After the chants rang clear on Sunday during Mexico’s game against El Salvador–making it to the TV broadcast by way of uncensored microphones in the stadium–Moggio attempted to rein it in once more: “This campaign is about changing attitudes among the fan base by working with our partners, including the fans themselves, on education and action toward reducing and eventually eliminating the chant.”

The chant is almost certain to be at the forefront of Thursday’s Gold Cup match between Mexico and Jamaica in Denver. Whether to support their team or to just raise a metaphorical middle finger at the powers-that-be, the Mexican fans are very likely to unleash the “puto” chant whenever the Jamaican goalkeeper boots a ball upfield.

The FMF has already been fined more than $100,000 total by FIFA, due to at least eight violations relating to the chant in recent years. Rather than seeing the fines stop fans from chanting, there is a fear that it is actually spreading to even more nations. FIFA has cited several other countries for homophobic or offensive taunts during the current World Cup qualifying cycle, including traditional powers Argentina and Brazil.

The only method that has been successful in slowing the chants was FIFA’s approach during the Confederations Cup: threaten to suspend play and cancel games over offensive chants. CONCACAF decided to not go that route for the Gold Cup, which could explain the fervor behind the chant. “We’ve seen different approaches to this,” Moggio said. “It’s hard when you think of punitive messages that do not address the problem at its root. We don’t want to take actions that affect integrity of games.”

By taking that stance, it may be in CONCACAF’s best interest to just stop acknowledging the chant altogether. Maybe without all the press and controversy surrounding it, fans won’t be as tempted to use the chant as a symbol of resistance. One thing is for sure: CONCACAF does not want to butt heads with its most important member country, and that hesitance could stamp out any real attempts to slow the chant’s popularity.