Mexican Football Federation President Yon de Luisa said the support of national team players will be critical to stamping out anti-gay chants during Mexico's games.
De Luisa, speaking to reporters via Zoom, laid out the FMF's continuing efforts to enforce FIFA's three-step, anti-discrimination protocol ahead of its slate of matches for the men's national team this summer.
El Tri matches have been plagued in the past by the controversial chant aimed towards opposition goalkeepers as they are running up to take goal kicks. It has been heard at Liga MX games as well as in other matches in Latin American countries.
De Luisa estimates that FIFA had fined the FMF at least 11 times, stressing that it is not the image of Mexico that should be projected to the world.
"This has been something that we have struggled with for the last years, and not only in the U.S. but almost everywhere where our national team plays," De Luisa said. "We saw it a little bit [at the 2018 World Cup] in Russia and other places where we have played. This is a challenge for us. This has become one of our important challenges for our federation."
Several El Tri players have already taken part in a video released in 2019 asking fans to stop using the chant, including Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, Cruz Azul's Roberto Alvarado, Chivas' Alexis Vega, Inter Miami CF attacker Rodolfo Pizarro, Tigres' Carlos Salcedo, America's Jorge Sanchez and UNAM's Alan Mozo.
"We need the players to send a clear message -- that this [chant] cannot happen, that we are playing with our jobs ... and that we are affecting our idols directly," he said.
Mexico will play Iceland at AT&T Stadium on May 29 in Arlington, Texas, before heading to Denver for the CONCACAF Nations League finals. After the two matches on June 3 and June 6, Mexico will play Honduras on June 12 in Atlanta.
De Luisa added that FIFA has threatened to apply additional sanctions if the FMF doesn't put a stop to the anti-gay chanting.
"The FIFA [threat] on not only stopping the match, losing points or kicking the national team out of the competition, it's real," he said. "We are not playing with that. I think that when we understood that -- everybody, players, coaches, clubs, people from the media -- then we change our approach."
The first step of the protocol is to stop the match and make a stadium announcement if a discriminatory chant is heard. Any identified offenders will be removed from the stadium. This could happen multiple times if the chant comes from different parts of the stadium. If the chant continues, the referee will direct the teams to head to their respective locker rooms and will suspend the match for "a reasonable amount of time" until the behavior stops. If there is no subsequent change in behavior, the referee has the authority to abandon the match.
"We are doing everything in our hands to never get to Step 3," De Luisa said. He later added, "This will be a terrible decision to make. However, if it is needed, it will be done."
The push ahead of national team games this summer is just the latest effort by the FMF to eradicate the chant. In a 2019 match against Panama, 35 fans were ejected for engaging in anti-gay chanting. The efforts were set to continue in 2020, but that was shelved by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year, Liga MX side Atlas was forced to play behind closed doors for one match after fans engaged in the chant in a match against Puebla. Instances of the chant were also heard at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in March.
De Luisa hopes that, over time, the momentum generated in eradicating the chant will carry forward to the future.
"The best is to have a North America World Cup in 2026 clean of any type of discriminatory act," he said. "And if we want to achieve that in 2026, we have to begin today, and that's why next match is important, and the next match will be as important as the previous one."