Around 30,000 Mexican soccer fans are expected to make the long, arduous – and expensive – journey to Russia over the next few weeks to see their national men’s team participate in the World Cup, the most watched international sporting event after the Olympic Games.
As of last week, the Russian Interior Ministry confirmed that just under 29,000 “fan IDs” have been issued to Mexican supporters. This document allows foreigners to purchase tickets for games and also enter Russia without the need for a visa.
Mexican soccer fans are known for their exuberance, but – unlike those from some European nations – not for getting into trouble/drunken brawls on their travels abroad. Nonetheless, the Mexican Foreign Ministry (SRE) has issued a set of guidelines for supporters titled “Reglas de Civilidad” (Rules of Civility). The missive includes predictable warnings for an authoritarian country such as Russia, including the perils of persons of the same sex displaying affection in public.
The SRE notes that the wearing of face masks in public is prohibited in Russia – Mexican fans who like to don colorful wrestlers’ guises will need to be cautious. Also, exhibiting national flags in public places (standard behavior of soccer fans), especially outside government buildings, is apparently forbidden.
The SRE has pleaded with Mexican fans to refrain from using the polemic “puto” chant designed to distract an opposing goalkeeper every time he takes a goal kick. The word is interpreted as a homophobic slur, and its use at games has led to fines being imposed on the Mexican Soccer Federation several times in the past few years. Appeals by players to fans to drop the shout have consistently fallen on deaf ears, with many supporters presenting the weak argument that the word is not really offensive. Further economic sanctions are likely to be applied by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, if the chant is heard during Mexico’s World Cup games.
A Mexican beer company recently came up with an idea to replace the cry from “puto” to “Putin.” The Mexican ambassador to Mexico firmly rejected the proposal, adding that fans who make offensive chants of any kind will be removed from stadiums. One of the more interesting aspects of the tournament will be seeing exactly how Russian authorities go about ejecting 10,000 Mexican fans from a game involving their national team!