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Mexico facing FIFA punishment for fans' anti-gay chants at World Cup

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Mexico’s soccer federation after Mexican fans shouted an anti-gay slur in unison during their country’s 1-0 win over Germany.

Soccer fans in Mexico, as well as those in some other Latin American countries, have a so-called “tradition” of yelling the Spanish word “puto” while an opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick. FIFA has warned them, fined the federation and told them to stop.

But the chant was heard loud and clear during Mexico’s 2018 World Cup opener on Sunday as German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer approached the ball to take a goal kick.

Mexico fans during Sunday’s 2018 World Cup win over Germany. (Getty)

What does “puto” mean?

The controversy surrounding the word is largely based on the fact that it has multiple meanings. One of those meanings equates to a three-letter English anti-gay slang word. That’s why it is offensive, and constitutes discriminatory language that is punishable by FIFA.

It also can mean “man whore” or “coward.” Simply yelling “Coward!” at a goalkeeper, of course, wouldn’t be cause for punishment. But given the multiple meanings, there is a clear anti-gay implication.

Here are a few good explanations of why the word is offensive.

What will Mexico’s punishment be?

FIFA was harshly criticized for not acting after the chant reared its ugly head at the 2014 World Cup. Since, it has been punishing the Mexican federation with fines. Soccer’s global governing body acted on 56 different cases of anti-gay abuse during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and 12 of those 56 were Mexican cases – the most of any country.

The minimum fine in such instances is roughly $30,000. That’s likely what Mexico’s federation will get. FIFA has the option to impose stadium bans or point deductions, or even expel a team from a competition. But it has never shown itself to be serious about policing homophobia, so it will likely just hit Mexico with the small fine.

FIFA has embedded anti-discrimination inspectors among fans to observe and report homophobia and racism. It has also told referees to follow a three-step process in cases of discriminatory chants, the first of which involves a brief halt to the match and an announcement by the stadium’s public address announcer telling fans to stop. No such announcement was made on Sunday.

FIFA will be under pressure to police the chant better when Mexico takes on South Korea and Sweden in its final two group games.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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