“This is a good time to send a message. We’re inviting the fans not to shout [the chant], to support us in a different way,” Fabian said at a news conference Tuesday (via Goal.com). “I know people have been doing it for a while, but I think there are different norms now.”
As opposing goalkeepers have prepared to kick balls back into play, Mexico fans have made a widely criticized habit of chanting “puto,” a Spanish word that can mean different things but is understood in this context to signify a slur word for a homosexual man, although some argue that it isn’t meant to be discriminatory. The chant was reportedly heard again during Mexico’s 1-0 upset Sunday of Germany, when Manuel Neuer was readying a goal kick in the 24th minute.
FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Mexican delegation, and Fabian said Tuesday that supporters could have their Fan IDs revoked, which would prevent them from using their tickets at World Cup games. Playing in Group F, Mexico next faces South Korea on Saturday, with a game against Sweden the following Wednesday, and it stands a very good chance of reaching the next round after toppling mighty Germany.
“They’ve come such a long way to be here with us, supporting us, so it would be a shame if they didn’t let fans in,” Fabian, who plays club soccer for Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt, said of Mexico’s fans. “So we want them to support in a different way.”
The 28-year-old, playing in his second World Cup, suggested that Mexico fans make more use of a chant that invokes the country’s name, as well as another based on a well-known song in his homeland, “Cielito Lindo.” Describing those two as “really lovely to hear,” Fabian said, “We like the support at 100 percent, but hope that we can stop doing this chant that is affecting us as much as it is, and above all [affecting] Mexico.”
“What we have to do and keep doing is uniting with the fans to abstain from the chant,” an official with Mexico’s soccer federation told ESPN on Monday. “The consequences are really big, not just for the federation, but also for the fans here.”
“You’ve seen what the security is like in Russia and it isn’t joking around,” he added.
Mexico’s federation has spoken out in the past against the chant, as have several of the country’s star players. In November, the Court of Arbitration for Sport canceled two fines FIFA had levied against Mexico, totaling around $35,000, after the chant was used in 2015 and 2016 games against, respectively, El Salvador and Mexico. However, the CAS noted that the federation had been given an effective “warning” and that “in the event similar infringements occur again in the future, harsher sanctions should be imposed.”
FIFA said Monday that a “public announcement was prepared” during the game against Germany to warn Mexico fans to stop using the chant, but that they “ceased” before the announcement needed to be made. “After the match and as an important step for further action, the incident was duly included in the match report,” FIFA said, “as well as the evidence produced by the anti-discrimination observers.”