Another US-Mexico match marred by discriminatory chanting, another toothless response from Concacaf

By | March 26, 2024

USMNT and El Tri players are waiting for Sunday’s Nations League final to resume after the match was stopped due to an offensive chant. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas – The punctual, inevitable, unsavory roar echoed through AT&T Stadium, and here we go again.

On Sunday there was another match between the US and Mexico.

Another regional final marred by homophobia.

There was another round of boring, evasive broadcast announcements, which didn’t include the infamous ‘p***’ chant.

There was another chorus of boos and another suspended match, and all we could do, as football fans, as people, was sit there and revel in hatred.

By now you could probably write the rest of this story. You could write the Concacaf statement condemning discrimination. You could write the arguments on social media about whether the word is homophobic. You might acknowledge that it has multiple meanings, but explain that millions of LGBTQ+ people feel its violence.

“Even though that’s not part of it [homophobic] intention, if other people feel that way, then that’s the way it is,” Yon De Luisa, then president of the Mexican Football Federation, told Yahoo Sports in 2021. “That’s why we want to eradicate it.”

But three years later, very little meaningful progress has been made, so here’s the story again. In the second half of Sunday’s Concacaf Nations League final, with the U.S. leading 2-0, hundreds (and likely thousands) of the 59,471 fans in attendance began raising their voices. They crescendoed – “ehhhhHHHH” – as American goalkeeper Matt Turner stood over the ball. “P***!” they shouted as he started it up. A few minutes later they shouted again.

The second chant led to a PA lecture, first in English and then in Spanish, on “fair play and mutual respect.” A minute later, Turner was lining up for another goal kick and heard the crescendo. He turned to the crowd and held up his palms helplessly. They pelted him with that word again – and then again, and again. The sixth shout of joy, in the 88th minute, finally forced Canadian referee Drew Fischer to blow his whistle, hold up his hands and bring the players to the center circle.

And for a good four minutes they stood there, beneath the giant video board at AT&T Stadium, which alternated between the two languages:

“The referee stopped the match due to discriminatory chanting.

“If this behavior continues you will be ejected from the stadium, the match may be suspended or abandoned and no refunds will be made.

“Discrimination has no place in football.”

Concacaf, the regional soccer governing body that runs the Nations League, would later say in its statement that “security personnel at the stadium identified and turned away a significant number of fans.” Of course, the number wasn’t nearly significant enough. The chanting continued throughout stoppage time, as loud as ever. It activated a PA announcement and then interrupted the announcement. It caused a second interruption, which lasted about 90 seconds.

It was clearly heard at least ten times. The threat of more eventually led to Fischer’s final whistle. By then, thousands of fans had grown tired of it. Once again a festive evening was destroyed by stupidity and/or intolerance.

Some who stayed in the meantime felt trapped. Thousands watching from afar felt irritated.

“Every day that goes by, every game that goes by where we sit on our hands and do nothing, we become at best laughable and at worst we get closer to encouraging this nonsense,” the president of American Outlaws DC said, an American football supporters group. wrote on X. “No fan should ever have to weigh their safety when attending a game. And yet here we are again.”

Concacaf might argue that it tried. However, any rational observer would argue that it hasn’t tried nearly enough. Its enforcement has been inconsistent at best. The protocols now feel toothless. Fans who use the word as a weapon are not deterred. In any case, they feel strengthened.

That became clear last June in Las Vegas, and again on Sunday evening. The chant was an afterthought as Mexico’s players battled and the fans remained hopeful for 45 minutes. It reared its ugly head as hope waned and frustration bubbled up. The protocols have perversely empowered fans who want to send a message to the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). Match interruptions only amplify their voices. Stopping a match almost seems to be their goal. Why else would they throw the chant at their own goalkeeper, the respected Memo Ochoa, as they did once on Sunday?

There is increasing private recognition among experienced North American soccer officials that the protocols are not working. And there are concerns that high-stakes deadlines are alarmingly close. The Men’s World Cup is coming to North America in 2026. Thirteen games come to Mexico, including the opener. Sixteen are coming to Texas, including nine at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

“It is extremely disappointing that this issue remains an issue in some competitions, especially in the context of the next two years which provide such a great opportunity to grow the sport in our region,” Concacaf said in its statement.

Well, Concacaf… maybe you can do something?

Stadium authorities and local governments could also do something.

The FMF could do a lot.

The U.S. Soccer Federation could even crack down. The country has a policy on derogatory chanting during international matches, but does not enforce it.

Of course, FIFA could also do a lot. That’s why FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s statement on Instagram on Monday morning raised eyebrows and ridicule. “Discrimination of any kind has no place in football and no place in society,” Infantino wrote. “I call on the relevant authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

Um, Gianni… that’s not true you an authority, if not the authority?

FIFA has had occasional, moderate success in toning down the chant. But the approach was reactive and spotty. The time for preventative action was years ago. It is now time for a reconsideration. The world is watching. It wants to feel welcome. At this point, the message from all “relevant authorities” is essentially: “No guarantees.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *