Soccer

This soccer chant is heard everywhere. So, why are Fresno fans trying to keep it out of the game?

Fresno FC for Everyone

A PSA from the Fresno FC on fan chants during matches.
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A PSA from the Fresno FC on fan chants during matches.

In the soccer world, the “p” chant – used to taunt an opposing team’s goalie during a goal kick – is infamous.

That’s partly because the p in this case stands for “puto,” which translates literally as a male sex worker, if you’re using it as a noun. It’s arguably worse, if you’re using it as an adjective.

Increasingly, the chant is seen as offensive and homophobic, the kind of thing that has “no place at Chukchansi Park,” according to Fresno FC, which released an official statement after the chant was heard at the team’s first home game last season.

Yet the chant persists, even as the team and fans themselves work to curb its use.

After a match in May, it led to an argument between fans in which one man was pushed to the ground. Chris Brown, a Fresno FC ticket holder and co-host of the Fox Trot podcast, said his phone was broken and his ribs were bruised in the fall.

Brown said he was in the parking lot after the game when he heard someone loudly using the chant. Brown confronted the man.

“I told him, ‘That (expletive) chant is homophobic,’” Brown said.

Brown said the man told Brown not to swear in front of his children, then pushed him down and threatened him while he was on the ground. The fan drove away before he could be identified.

A police report was filed and the team was made aware of the altercation and is working with police and stadium security to assist in any investigation.

The incident left Brown wondering if he will make it to the next home game on Saturday night at Chukchansi Park.

“This is a hard issue,” he said.

Cultural differences

Confronting it will take all the stake holders coming together to find solutions.

Complicating the matter here are cultural differences between fans, said Romeo Guzmán, an assistant professor of social sciences at Fresno State and director of the school’s history project “The Other Football: Tracing the Game’s Roots and Routes.

For many Mexican fans, the chant is almost tradition, Guzmán said, even if its roots go back only 10 or so years. It is also part of colloquial language and used so commonly it is not seen as being related to any larger contexts.

There is a disconnect between the chant itself and its words, Guzmán said.

“They understand that the goalie is not gay. It’s just an easy and clear way to talk (trash) on him,” Guzmán said. “The challenge is to get people that use it to realize that language has power and that the chant is ultimately homophobic.”

Teams fined

Soccer’s governing bodies have taken action against teams as a way of potentially controlling fans. FIFA fined Mexico’s soccer federation after the team’s opening game at the World Cup in 2018. Then FIFA fined Mexico again, along with several other teams.

The USL Championship, which governs Fresno FC, can and has levied fines for the chant. The league reviews every match for offensive behaviors – both on and off the field – and fines teams accordingly.

“We do have the ability to levy fines against clubs whose fans are engaging in organized profanity during matches,” said USL spokesperson Scott Stewart.

But that is last resort.

“Our primary focus is on working directly with teams to help put a stop to such behavior. In Fresno’s case, we have been in frequent contact with Foxes FC and based on those conversations have complete confidence that everything possible will be done to promote a positive and inclusive environment going forward.”

Fresno FC was fined several times last season because of fans using the chant, said Angel Moreno, the team’s director of communications.

This year, there haven’t been any fines, he said, partly because the team has worked to make it clear such language cannot be tolerated from the team or its fans. The club released a one-minute player video last March with the hashtag #FFCForEveryone.

But it can still be heard at games, said Ed Stewart, with the Fresno FC supporter group Fire Squad Fresno.

“The chant comes and goes,” he said. “Some nights it is more prevalent, and others you don’t hear it at all.”

Fire Squad says no

The Fire Squad has always asked members of the group and any fans sitting in its cheering section to not use racist, sexist, homophobic or discriminatory chants, Stewart said. The “p” chant in particular has been condemned by FIFA, USA Soccer, USL and Fresno FC. All have asked fans not to use the chant.

“And we agree with that,” Stewart said. “We have heard from some people that the chant does make them uncomfortable and feel less welcome.”

There are teams seeing success in curbing the use of the chant among fans. LAFC of Major League Soccer was featured in the sports journalism magazine The Athletic in April for essentially eradicating the chant from its games. The club said it did it by working directly with its support clubs and an LGBT advocacy group and by training security staff to deal with the chant.

That includes removing offenders from games.

Brown would like to see Fresno FC do more to stop the chant, such as making more announcements or posting signs and promising to eject fans who don’t comply with the team’s rules on the subject.

But, ultimately, everyone bears a responsibility: “It also takes us in the stands,” he said.

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