Mexico fans are under investigation from FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, for yelling gay slurs at the team’s World Cup matches against Cameroon and Brazil, but instead of condemning the behavior, Mexico manager Miguel Herrera is rushing to their defense.
FIFA announced Thursday that it would investigate both Mexico and Brazil fans for homophobic chants at World Cup matches, as well as Russian and Croatian fans for racist and anti-Semitic behavior. Mexico’s fans could be audibly heard screaming “Puto!” — a slang term that is often used as a gay slur — every time Brazil keeper Julio Cesar took a goal kick during a match between the two teams Monday.
Herrera, however, doesn’t see the problem (as Soccerly noted Thursday, this is regular ritual at Mexican soccer matches).
“We’re with our fans,” Herrera told the Associated Press. “It’s something they do to pressure the opposing goalkeeper.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has had major missteps on LGBT issues in the past, but the organization and Brazil president Sepp Blatter this year pledged to use Brazil’s World Cup to fight discrimination, including homophobia. Equality advocates have used the Cup to draw attention to their causes both in Brazil and abroad. Multiple groups have highlighted data showing that the country is home to roughly 40 percent of the world’s anti-gay violence, while United Nations human rights commissioner Navi Pillay has called on gay soccer players at the World Cup to come out to promote tolerance. A new poll released before the World Cup showed that most fans would accept an openly gay soccer player on their national teams, though there are no openly gay players at this World Cup.
FIFA’s swift response to open an investigation into fans yelling homophobic jeers is laudable, though it will likely only result in warnings because it is a first offense. But even as FIFA shows some progress on the issue of homophobic fan behavior, Herrera’s refusal to condemn the chants shows how far many parts of the soccer world still have to go to make the game more open to gay athletes and fans.