In Mexico, there is a slang term, “puto,” which soccer fans like to yell at opposing players, loudly and in unison, as part of a chant. There’s a whole rhythm to it, and some American soccer fans liked the sound of it so much they started doing it, too.
Here’s what it sounds like.
One problem, from the Los Angeles Times:
The word, which translates roughly to “male prostitute,” has long been used in Mexico as a slur against gay men.
Many soccer fans insist it isn’t meant as an anti-gay insult. They point out that the word has taken on other meanings, including “coward,” and is even sometimes used between friends kind of like “dude.”
Critics say fans obviously aren’t screaming “dude” at opposing teams.
Americans will recognize this argument. It’s the same one used by Eminem and others when explaining they see no homosexual connotation in their use of the word “fag,” saying all it means to them is “idiot” or “dork” or something of the sort.
Certainly there was a time when that word was thrown around as a casual and general insult, and, as in all communication, the intent of the speaker is relevant to the meaning of the speech. But it goes without saying that while it might not hurt Eminem or one of his friends much to hear a slur like that, it cuts deeper for those against whom the word has been used as a verbal weapon, and sometimes as a harbinger of actual violence.
Besides, a soccer chant does not rise to the level of artistic expression. There is no “I’m just telling stories” defense to be made here.
“There’s no question that in this context, it’s an insult,” said Rafael Ocampo, a longtime sportswriter in Mexico City who is now the director of Milenio Television. “It’s an embarrassment.”
Remarkably (or perhaps unremarkably, depending on your perspective on soccer fans), the chant recently started getting shouted at MLS games in the United States.
Trouble is, nobody knows quite what to do about it. When it happened in Atlanta, the Atlanta United said they would kick out fans who participated in the chant, though you can imagine the challenges associated with enforcing that policy. Some have suggested penalizing the home team when it happens and, although that is not exactly “fair,” such penalties are generally effective ways of policing fan behavior.
The issue has drawn the attention of some governing bodies in the sport, including the Mexican Soccer Federation and FIFA. Both seem to be taking a hard line on it.
Now, in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, soccer authorities are taking the chant more seriously. The Mexican Soccer Federation has been fined thousands of dollars multiple times in recent months after fans chanted the slur during several World Cup qualifying matches.
Ahead of this month’s Confederations Cup, FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, announced a dramatic plan to try to stamp out the chant. Cameras have been trained on the stands to monitor fans’ behavior. If any fans are seen screaming the chant, Mexico will be issued a formal warning. If they persist, referees have the authority to suspend the match or end the game altogether.
And that may be what it will take. Mexican players quoted in the Times took sort of a wishy-washy stance on it, and if the opinion of a construction worker on his lunch break is any indication, fans think this is all being blown out of proportion.
Sanchez said he has shouted the chant at many games, and doubts fans at home games in Mexico will stop doing it.
“If it was actually offensive,” he said, “we would stop.”