FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura talks to media during a news conference at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia, Friday, June 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Russia World Cup head Vitaly Mutko is flanked by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, left, during a news conference at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia, Friday, June 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
In this May 24, 2017 photo, Gabriel Galvan, one of the founders of "La Ola Verde," or the Green Wave, poses with his accreditation for the Confederations Cup soccer game between Mexico and Russia, at his home in Mexico City. From New Zealand to Ohio, a group of Mexican fans has been traveling the world for almost a decade following the national team. Its next stop is Russia, where "El Tri" plays in the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warmup tournament that starts Saturday. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — In a bid to rid the World Cup of gay slurs, FIFA will get tough with Latin American fans in Russia.
FIFA has ordered tighter monitoring of offensive incidents at Confederations Cup matches which kick off Saturday, and wants referees to stop play if fans persist.
FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Friday that curbing problems now is “exactly the whole purpose” of anti-discrimination work at the World Cup rehearsal tournament.
“Fans (must) understand that they will be jeopardizing the game by refusing systematically to respect fair play,” Samoura said at a briefing.
Confederations Cup teams Chile and Mexico have been sanctioned by FIFA a combined 17 times for fans’ homophobic chants in the current World Cup qualifying program.
Chants aimed at opposing goalkeepers are rife in South and Central America football, though some insist they are simply part of terrace culture.
“It’s complicated, because for Mexicans it’s not a chant with the intent to offend,” midfielder Miguel Layun said after a training session in Kazan, Russia. “It’s not about racism, it’s a chant that we even use among friends.”
A leader of the Mexico fan group “Green Wave” doubted FIFA was serious about intervening.
“We talked among ourselves and the feeling is that the chant won’t stop. No one believes they’ll really stop the game,” Gabriel Galvan told The Associated Press.
Mexico’s federation has been fined $120,000 by FIFA in recent months. The Gold Cup winner plays Portugal on Sunday in Kazan.
Chile’s football federation has been fined a total of $210,000 and prevented from playing four games at its national stadium in Santiago. The Copa America champion plays Cameroon on Sunday in Moscow.
Samoura said pre-match announcements in the four Confederations Cup stadiums can start a process that allows referees to pause play to broadcast warnings, and ultimately abandon games.
“If sanctions and education do not work then we have to take it further,” said the FIFA official, who said it has prepared an anti-racism message from Diego Maradona to be revealed on Saturday.
The process now adopted by FIFA has been used for several years by European football body UEFA. It was highlighted ahead of the 2012 European Championship played in Poland and Ukraine when Italy forward Mario Balotelli, who is black, said he was prepared to walk off the pitch if targeted by fans for abuse.