The chant favored by Mexico's soccer team fans is "puto," a slang word sometimes tossed playfully between friends, the way one might cajole a friend as a chump or a "bitch," or, in the '90s especially, "fag." It’s also a word hurled at the gay community as intentionally derogative. In the context of Mexico’s national soccer team, it’s a word chanted in the direction of opposing team goalies whenever they touch the ball. The casual homophobia in the sport recently caused a backlash among international soccer fans, and a contingency of international football federations are campaigning to stamp it out.
The chant has persisted through the decades among supporters of "El Tri," the nickname for the team in green, white and red. And now, in this soccer season summer with international tournaments back and stadiums replenished by fans sequestered to matches through their screens, its usage has made a resurgence.
At the start of June, CONCACAF, the official sports body looking over North and Central America, launched its What’s Wrong Is Wrong campaign, with the intent of getting the word out of the pitch and stands. Despite their attempts, international games still echoed with the stadium sounds of "puto," and Mexico's fans showed no signs of letting up. The slur was one more item among a list of general rowdiness during the CONCACAF Nations League tournament, including a few instances where beer bottles were thrown on the players' heads or on the grass. The behavior earned Mexico a two-game fan suspension for two of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers this fall.
This did little to stymie the chant’s resurrection just weeks later at Mexico’s opening match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The game took place in Dallas before a boisterous Saturday night crowd, and a Mexican star player received a dramatic early injury. Between that and some questionable scorekeeping calls, the match ended without a score from either side. With a frustrated crowd paying no mind to the FIFA sanction, the chant came roaring back from the stands. The match was stopped twice in an attempt to impede its use following FIFA’s three-step procedure (stop the match, suspend the match and abandon the match), and players from Mexico’s team could be seen pleading with their fans to stop from the grass.
Coming into their next match on Wednesday, a significant portion of the soccer-watching world was tracking the behavior of Mexico’s fans and the possibility that they might not be allowed in the stadium to start. CONCACAF released a statement assuring fans they would be allowed in Wednesday, but the potential that they might lose fan privileges at future matches this tournament (and coming year) remain on the table, along with a more severe potential that the team itself might be removed from playing in next year’s World Cup and co-hosting it in 2026.
With this weightiness, the scene on Wednesday evening in Dallas gave encouragement to weary fans. A crowd of all ages and backgrounds filtered in to watch Mexico defeat Guatemala by a respectable three goals.
Not even a whisper of the chant was heard anywhere in the stadium. In its place, were passionate, supportive fans representing El Tri’s base. Guatemala and Mexico fans attended the game roughly in equal proportions, and inside the stadium, sat cordially side by side. The sheer joy among the crowd was palpable as they waved, cheered and sang.
The scene amongst the casual attendees and staff was just as heartwarming. Staff behind the counters, collecting tickets and on clean-up, all said they were cheering for Mexico. Why? Because this is Texas, they said, our friends are from there.
The scene at Cotton Bowl Stadium was a montage of what sport isn’t always, but can be at its finest. If Wednesday is an example of what’s to come, any poor behavior from Mexico’s fan section has been tamed, which is good news for a team soon facing bigger and more challenging games.