A controversial soccer chant which forced the national team to play two matches in front of empty stadiums is trending on social media, sparking fears that it will reverberate around the Aztec Stadium in the grudge World Cup qualifier against the United States on Thursday.
In what has become Mexican soccer tradition, the homophobic slur “Eh, puto!” is shouted from the stands during matches, normally at the opposition goalkeeper after a goal kick. The Mexico Soccer Federation (FMF) has been trying to end the chant and sanctions by soccer’s world governing body FIFA meant the national team, often called El Tri, was forced to play in front of empty stadiums against Costa Rica and Panama earlier this year.
In an effort to police fans’ chanting, the FMF will implement a new system to track the some 50,000 fans in the stadium on Thursday and try to identify those who shout the slur.
ESPN reporter David Faitelson called on fans to avoid the chant. “The #Gritaputo [chant] has appeared as a trending topic [on social media] just hours before the game between Mexico and the United States. I hope there is awareness, respect and education. It’s just a football game. We are going to make ourselves known for our Mexican hospitality. The game is won, lost or drawn on the pitch,” he said.
If fans continue the chant on Thursday, it could hurt their teams chances of qualifying for November’s world cup in Qatar: any further punishment will see El Tri docked points. That would spell trouble for the side which is in third place, the last automatic qualification spot, four points ahead of Panama with three matches to play.
El Tri faces the U.S. at 8 p.m. on Thursday, a team they’ve already lost to three times in the space of a year. They lost 2-0 in a qualifying game in November and fell short twice to their closest rivals earlier in 2021 in other tournaments.
The U.S. is tied in the standings with Mexico with 21 points, but is ahead on goal difference in the Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) standings. At the top of the standings is Canada with 25 points, meaning it has all but qualified.
El Tri faces Honduras away on March 27 before its final qualifying game at home to El Salvador on March 30.
The “Eh, puto!” chant has also caused problems in the national league: an angry crowd turned violent in December in Morelia, Michoacán, after a game was suspended.
In an unrelated act of soccer hooliganism, at least 26 people were injured during a massive brawl at a professional soccer match in Querétaro city earlier in March.
With reports from ESPN