Mexico supporters pulled out the “Ehhhh.....Puto!” chant once again in their 1-0 World Cup win over Germany on Sunday, with the homophobic slur audible on the TV broadcast during Manuel Neuer’s goal kicks. The chant is potentially going to earn the Mexican federation another fine from FIFA, which is investigating the Mexico fans’ actions with the aid of their anti-discrimination monitoring system. Hopefully, once the investigation of the fans is through, homophobia will have been eliminated from Russia, which has criminalized “homosexual propaganda,” and also its republic Chechnya, where there are no gay people.
FIFA has already fined Mexico’s federation—which has campaigned to get supporters to change the chant—$160,000 for continued use of “Puto” across the World Cup qualifiers, including all of its home games and road matches against the U.S., Canada, and Panama. “Puto,” which came to international prominence at the 2014 World Cup, has also been heard in other Spanish-speaking countries, Brazil, and MLS games in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York.
The word gets translated to “faggot” pretty often but should probably be taken more literally to mean something like “man-whore,” and it has homophobic undertones even if supporters of the chant defend it as an innocent insult. In the same way that the English “cocksucker” gets used by not-very-bright people as a catch-all insult for men, “puto” is an allegedly sexuality-neutral word that nevertheless works to reinforce traditional straight, masculine power. Whether or not the intent is there when it’s shouted on goal kicks, “puto” is a symbol of homophobia and a common insult experienced by gay men in Mexico, who I would think generally don’t want to hear it as they’re trying to enjoy and not get beat up at a sporting event.
So yeah, it’d be cool if people didn’t yell it, since it’s already weird enough being a queer person in an aggressively masculine space like a high-profile men’s soccer game. There are procedures that referees can take if they hear the chant, though they weren’t followed in Sunday’s game. However, procedure aside, this years-long controversy is just getting exhausting, and it’s fair to wonder why FIFA is spending so much effort to try and eliminate a relatively harmless chant while ignoring larger anti-gay issues under its own nose, like the kidnapping and torturing of gay men in Chechnya, where the Egyptian national team is training.
It’s not terrible that FIFA is being so blunt about its intolerance for “puto,” and the punishments that offending countries have received for it, including a loss of home games for Chile, aren’t nothing. But it’s also pretty damn hypocritical for FIFA to punish a country’s fans for using a homophobic slur at an event that the governing body decided to hold in a country where it is extremely scary to be queer. If FIFA wants its gay fans to feel safe in Russia, maybe the threat of state-approved violence is a better place to start than a goal-kick chant.