Some Mexico Fans Feel Unfairly Targeted For World Cup Chants | KUER 90.1

Some Mexico Fans Feel Unfairly Targeted For World Cup Chants

Jun 23, 2014
Originally published on June 23, 2014 10:20 am

FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup, says it has zero tolerance for racist and homophobic conduct by players and fans at this year's international soccer event.

Late last week, FIFA opened an investigation into the display of neo-Nazi banners by both Russian and Croat fans at the World Cup. And Brazil and Mexico face possible sanctions for chanting a homophobic slur during their match last week. But soccer fans say the world is misinterpreting the use of the word and their team spirit.

When Brazil's goalie Julio Cesar prepared to blast a goal kick during last Tuesday's game against Mexico, fans raised their pitch and, just before the point of contact, took a big collective breath and screamed the Spanish word for male prostitute or whore.

In return, Brazilian fans began slinging verbal attacks, too. Europe's FARE network, an anti-discrimination group, reported the slur to FIFA, which launched an investigation.

Mexico's soccer coach, Miguel Herrera, insisted to reporters that the word is not that bad, and just a way for fans to put pressure on the opposing team's goalie.

Besides, fans will be fans, and there is nothing officials can do to stop such expressions, said the director of Mexico's national team, Hector Gonzalez Inarritu, to Medio Tiempo.

Inarritu insists the word is not discriminatory or in any way aggressive; it's just an insult like thousands used around the world.

Writers and artists decried the practice on social media and the airwaves, calling it unfortunate mob mentality and definitely offensive. But on a noisy strip of bars in Mexico City's trendy Condesa neighborhood, it was hard to find that condemnation among soccer fans.

Antonio de Luna, a 23-year-old medical student, says the word has different meanings depending on your tone. He uses it all the time and has never meant it as an attack on gays. His friends agree and say FIFA is unfairly attacking Mexico.

Croatia and Russia could face point deductions for neo-Nazi symbols displayed at their respective World Cup openers. A FIFA official said on Friday that there is zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, including that based on sexual orientation.

Mike Woitalla, editor of Soccer America magazine, says the governing body has been fairly responsive to racist acts.

"I think they have been very slow to react to homophobic chants, and it is reassuring and welcoming that at this [World Cup], FIFA has responded and we will see how this plays out," Woitalla says.

Brazil and Mexico will mostly likely receive warnings, usually given for a first offense. But Woitalla says Mexican fans have been chanting the slur for years, and the practice has spread across the border. Univision, the U.S. Spanish language network, often mutes the sound before a goal kick in matches with the visiting Mexican team.

"The Mexican team is playing wonderful soccer, and their fans are traditionally wonderful fans, and right now, with this chant, they are bringing shame upon themselves," Woitalla says.

Mexico City sports fans resolutely disagree, and say FIFA is imposing political correctness and doesn't get Mexico's enthusiasm.

"We are Latinos, we get excited. They just want us to be like soldiers and take all the emotion out of the game," says 32-year-old Jimena Gonzalez.

Mexico plays Croatia on Monday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Organizers of the World Cup want to make sure soccer fans cheer appropriately. The problem comes when fans focus on teams or players they do not like. FIFA, the tournament organizer, says it has zero tolerance for racist or homophobic behavior. It's investigating displays of neo-Nazi banners by Croatian and Russian fans. Brazil and Mexico also face sanction because of homophobic chants by their fans during their game last week. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City, some Mexican supporters say they're just misunderstood.

(CHEERING)

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: As Brazil's goalie, Julio Cesar, winds up to blast a goal kick during last Tuesday's game against Mexico, fans raise their pitch and just before the point of contact they take a big, collective breath and [beep] scream the Spanish word for male prostitute or whore. In return, Brazilian fans began slinging the verbal attack too. Europe's FARE network, an antidiscrimination group, reported the slur to FIFA, which launched an investigation. Mexico soccer coach, Miguel Herrera, insisted to reporters that the word is not that bad and just a way for fans to put pressure on the opposing team's goalie. Besides, fans will be fans and there is nothing officials can do to stop such expressions, added the director of Mexico's national team, Hector Gonzalez Inarritu on the website, mediotempo.

HECTOR GONZALEZ INARRITU: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Gonzalez insists the word is not discriminatory or in any way aggressive. It's just an insult, like thousands used around the world. Mexican writers and artists decried the practice on social media and the airwaves, calling it unfortunate mob mentality and definitely offensive. But on a noisy strip of bars in Mexico City's trendy Condesa neighborhood, it was hard to find that condemnation among soccer fans.

ANTONIO DE LUNA: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Antonio de Luna, a 23-year-old medical student, says the word has different meanings depending on your tone. He uses it all the time and has never meant as an attack on gays. His friends agree and say FIFA is unfairly attacking Mexico. Croatia and Russia could face point deductions for neo-Nazi symbols displayed at their respective World Cup openers. A FIFA official said on Friday there is zero tolerance on any form of discrimination, including sexual orientation. Mike Woitalla, editor of Soccer America magazine, says the governing body has been fairly responsive to racist acts.

MIKE WOITALLA: And I think they've been very slow to react to homophobic chants and it's reassuring and it's welcoming that at this World Cup, FIFA has responded and we'll see how this plays out.

KAHN: Brazil and Mexico will most likely receive warnings - usually given for a first offense - but Woitalla says Mexican fans have been chanting the slur for years and the practice has spread across the border. Univision, the U.S. Spanish-language network, often mutes the sound before a goal kick in matches with the visiting Mexican team.

WOITALLA: The Mexican team is playing wonderful soccer and their fans are traditionally wonderful fans. And right now, with this chant, their bringing shame upon themselves.

KAHN: Mexico City sports fans resolutely disagree and say FIFA is imposing political correctness and doesn't get Mexico's enthusiasm.

JIMENA GONZALEZ: (Spanish spoken).

KAHN: Thirty-two-year-old philosophy professor, Jimena Gonzalez, says we are Latinos - we get excited. They just want us to be like soldiers and take all the emotion out of the game. Mexico plays Croatia this afternoon. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.