Mexico City - The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) announced a new crackdown Friday on the homophobic slurs often heard at its matches, warning that the controversial tradition could get the country banned from the 2022 World Cup.
Mexican football fans are known for shouting out "Puto!", a homophobic insult, when the opposing team takes a goal kick, a custom that has repeatedly led to FIFA fining the FMF.
"If we don't solve this problem before qualifiers start for the 2022 World Cup, it will endanger our chance to participate" in the tournament, FMF president Yon de Luisa told a press conference.
"We are trying to eradicate all racist slurs and discrimination from our football," added Enrique Bonilla, the head of the Mexican first division, the Liga MX.
They announced harsh measures for league matches, aimed at drilling the message into fans ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. Starting next week, for the next three rounds of league play, officials will stop the match if there is a homophobic slur and play an announcement over the loudspeakers.
The following round, in case of a second incident during a match, officials will have the option to order the teams back to their changing rooms. And if the insults continue a third time, the local club will be penalized.
"We are repeat offenders. We have already been fined 14 times by FIFA, and now we are facing more severe penalties, bigger fines, loss of points, relegation and even a ban," said De Luisa.
FIFA first punished Mexico for homophobic slurs in 2015, fining the FMF more than $15,000 after a World Cup qualifying match against Ecuador in Mexico City.
Since then, the world football governing body has imposed 13 more fines, including one for more than $10,000 after Mexico's opening match against Germany at last year's World Cup.