Mexico Soccer Fans Stopped Using An Anti-Gay Slur That Got Them Into Big Trouble

The word 'Puto' means different things to different people.

mexico soccer fans stopped using an anti-gay slur
Efrem Lukatsky / AP Images

The word 'Puto' means different things to different people.

Mexican soccer fans have apparently stopped using an anti-gay slur that has, in the past, led to them fined tens of thousands of dollars by soccer’s governing body, Yahoo Sports is reporting.

Mexico’s 2-0 victory over South Korea on Saturday was a huge boon to the Mexican soccer fans for two reasons. First, it means that El Tri, as their supporters call the team, will advance out of the Group Stage. Second, fans stopped chanting the word “Puto” at their opponents. For this, the Mexican soccer federation were not fined $10,000, like they were after last week’s stunning win over Germany.

For years, it was a thing for supporters of Latin American soccer teams to chant the word whenever an opposing goalkeeper took a goal kick, as Yahoo Sports writer Henry Bushnell reported earlier this week. “Puto” is an anti-gay slur, roughly equivalent to an American English word that won’t be printed here.

At least, soccer’s governing body, FIFA, considers it an anti-gay slur. Mexico’s soccer federation insisted otherwise.

The problem is that language is an inexact science. Words mean different things depending on context, as well as the speaker and the listener. What’s more, what’s offensive in one country is perfectly mundane in another. Consider the so-called “fanny pack”; in American English, “fanny” is a silly word on par with “butt” or “bottom.” In British English, it’s considerably more vulgar and means something else entirely.

In the case of “puto,” it can mean the aforementioned anti-gay slur; or it can mean something akin to “man-whore”; or it can mean “coward.” Mexico’s soccer federation, for years, insisted that the fans were using it in the “coward” context. FIFA, however, didn’t buy it. Over the the years, the governing body has punished the federation several times, including a $10,000 fine for fans’ use of the word earlier this week in its win over Germany.

Enough was enough. Mexico’s soccer federation began a media campaign to discourage fans from using the word.

“Let’s not risk another sanction.”

“There are different rules now. … We should avoid punishments.”

And it seems to have worked; not once during Saturday’s victory over South Korea was the word “Puto” heard, at least, not loudly enough for any FIFA executives to take notice.

So what did the Mexican fans do when the South Korean goalkeeper took a goal kick instead of chanting “Puto”? They chanted “Profe Osorio.” Apparently, it’s something akin to “Professor Mediocre Soccer Player.” It’s probably much more insulting in Spanish, but, at least it’s not an anti-gay slur.