Mexico will play its next two World Cup home matches in an empty stadium as punishment for fans’ homophobic chanting, FIFA has announced.
All spectators will be banned from the World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica (2 September) and Canada (7 October) after two CONCACAF Olympic qualifier games in March were marred by homophobic slurs.
The Mexican soccer federation (FMF) will also be fined $65,000 following an investigation by FIFA, the world governing body for football.
“On behalf of the FMF, national teams, clubs, all of us who want to see Mexico triumph, let’s stop, let’s stop now,” Yon de Luisa, the president of the Mexican federation said at a news conference on Friday (18 June).
“What for some seemed to be fun, I have news for you. It isn’t. Because of it we’re kept out of the stadium and kept away from our national team. Please stop. Stop now.”
The “p**o” chant, referring to a man who has sex with other men, has plagued Mexican football for years.
The origins of the chant are unclear but it is believed to date back to a Mexican club match in 2007, and is generally used when the opposing goalkeeper makes a goal kick.
There’s been vigorous debate over whether the chant is derogatory since the offending word can have many meanings in Spanish, but the FMF finally acknowledged it as homophobic in 2019.
Since then FMF has repeatedly promised to crack down on the slur, yet fans have continued to scream it at goalkeepers in most or all Mexican men’s national team games this year.
FIFA’s latest sanctions are the strongest ever taken against Mexico for the chant, and more could be coming.
The regulator is said to be investigating the use of the chant during four recent games in the US, three of which were halted by officials because of fan behaviour.
“If we don’t stop this now, the effect it can have on the football industry in Mexico can be devastating. I hope this is the first and last sanction that FIFA imposes,” de Luisa said.
Head coach Tata Martino added: “We’re very worried. We’re worried about what’s coming, about the sanctions that could possibly be next, and because we don’t want to be pulled away from our fans. Any national team that wants to accomplish important things depends on its players and its fans.”