FIFA has cleared Mexico of disciplinary action for the use of a derogatory term in a cheer against opposing teams, which some consider homophobic, and thousands of Mexicans used it enthusiastically in their 3-1 win against Croatia in Recife Monday.
The word in Mexican Spanish can refer to a male prostitute, or a male homosexual, and is also the basis for number of other non-sexual interjections or profanities.
When FIFA opened investigations into the use of the jeer, after a complaint from London's Fare organization, the possibility of sanction set off a firestorm of debate amongst Mexico fans.
"I don't think it's necessarily homophobic ... but it's definitely rude. I've long had my reservations about it, because, do we need to be so nasty to the opposing team?" asked Horacio Hernandez, 35, of Mexico City, who was in Recife to see Monday's game. "But still, the only reason I wouldn't use it is if I thought it would get Mexico into trouble."
The chant has long been used by Mexican fans, in the Mexican Liga as well as in the U.S. Traditionally, the fans scream it as an opposing goalie or striker takes a free kick, in the hope that the wall of aggressively insulting sound will distract the player.
"That word has different connotations, all of which are offensive. We accept that this word has different meanings," said Andres Aradillas-Lopez, a Mexico-born economics professor at Penn State, speaking in an interview with Outsports cited by Fare. "One of its meanings is meant to be offensive to gay men. So nobody can deny that many gay men have been victimized by this word. Therefore to me, this word automatically becomes a gay slur, because people from the gay community who listen to this word can feel hurt ... I feel it is the person who feels offended by that word who should be the one who decides if it is offensive."
Mexicans and Brazilians packed into Arena Pernambuco stadium Monday, shouting in widespread support of Mexico, who went on to place second in Group A and will advance. The use of the jeer was widespread, as was another vulgarity that was shouted when a Croatian player was deemed by fans to have feigned injury.
"Look, FIFA is nonsense," said Felipe Alvarado, a fan from Culiacán, Mexico, who also was in Recife for the game Monday. "If they care so much about gay rights, why are they putting on a World Cup in a country where gay people are killed," he asked, referring to Qatar.