USMNT vs. Mexico stopped due to discriminatory chanting: History of Mexico’s derogatory soccer chants

The U.S. men’s national team’s 2-0 win over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday was temporarily halted after Mexico fans repeatedly used an anti-LGBTQ+ chant that continues to mar El Tri’s high-profile matches.

The fans used the discriminatory chants at multiple times during the game, getting louder and louder with each usage. Around the 74th minute, the first of seven in-stadium announcements in English and Spanish asking those fans to stop was made to no avail. Upon the fourth announcement around the 87th minute, the referee halted play to usher in the first step of Concacaf’s three-step process, which can end with a match being suspended if the behavior continues.

Play resumed after a nearly four-and-a-half minute stoppage, but the discriminatory chant continued and only grew louder. During stoppage time, the match was stopped for more than a minute before it resumed. Concacaf never signaled that the referees had initiated the second step of the three-step process, though the in-stadium announcers teased the possibility of the match being suspended.

The second step would call for players to head to the locker room, but even without that, the stoppages mean the Mexican Football Federation can expect a sanction. Concacaf released the following statement after the match.

“Concacaf condemns the discriminatory chanting in the final minutes of the Nations League Final between Mexico and the United States men’s national teams. Security staff in the stadium identified and ejected a significant number of fans, and the referee and match officials activated the FIFA protocol. Concacaf in 2021 launched it’s What’s Wrong Is Wrong campaign, through which it has consistently urged fans to cease the chant, with regular digital communications and significant in-stadium messaging befoe and during all Concacaf events.”

Mexican fans’ usage of the anti-LGBTQ+ chant has been an unfortunate staple of the final stages of Concacaf Nations League so far, and is part of a long history of discriminatory language that has yet to be eradicated from El Tri matches. Here’s a look at the protocol referees will be following should crowd trouble arise and a look back at how the situation was handled at previous CNL matches.

Soccer’s anti-discrimination policies
During both previous editions of the Nations League finals, Mexico matches have been halted because of the fans’ use of the anti-LGBTQ+ chant. El Tri’s 2021 semifinal win over Costa Rica was paused for three minutes during a penalty shootout, which ended with several fans being ejected from the stadium. Several days later in the CNL final against the U.S. men’s national team, the match once again paused for three minutes during second-half stoppage time.

During last year’s CNL semifinal against the USMNT, the discriminatory chant led to a stop in the 90th minute, when the U.S. were already up 3-0. The teams came back out and had 12 minutes of stoppage time to play, but the game ended after only seven minutes were played.

Mexico have also been penalized several times by FIFA in recent years for their fans’ usage of the anti-LGBTQ+ chant. The team played two World Cup qualifiers in the winter of 2022 behind closed doors and were fined 100,000 Swiss francs (around $110,000) and received the same fine and a one-match supporters ban after fans were heard using the chant during 2022 World Cup group stage matches against Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Since the Nations League matches fall under Concacaf’s jurisdiction, the North American soccer body will be in charge of doling out punishments. It is currently unclear what, if any, sanctions Concacaf will issue for the fan incidents.

Soccer’s anti-discrimination policies
Ahead of the first Nations League finals in 2021, Concacaf instituted a three-step policy that is in line with FIFA’s guidelines on discriminatory language from fans.

At the referee’s discretion, a match will first be temporarily stopped upon hearing discriminatory behavior. That pause will be followed by a stadium announcement, as well as a message on in-stadium screens explaining the halt alongside a request to fans to stop using discriminatory language.

If the behavior continues, the referee can then suspend the match and send the teams to the locker room for what the officials deem an appropriate amount of time, a decision that will once again be followed by announcements. The referee’s final course of action can be to abandon the match.

Fans caught doing discriminatory behavior also face the possibility of being kicked out of the match.

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