Three U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team players said fans in Rio told the athletes that the crowd was shouting an antigay slur during their match Thursday.
The slur Brazilian fans were referring to was the Portugese word “bicha,” reports Outsports, a site that focuses on the intersection of LGBT issues in sports. The site compared the Portugese word to the Spanish slur “puto” that is commonly used by soccer fans in Mexico. “Bicha” translates to faggot, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
Many soccer fans disagree about whether the use of the Spanish chant “puto” at soccer games is homophobic because the direct translation of the word into English means “male prostitute.” Despite the differences over its meaning, it’s generally agreed that the context that the word is used in — at soccer games — is ultimately what makes it homophobic.
Brazilian journalists said this is the first time in the history of a soccer game in Brazil that they’ve heard the homophobic slur being used on women instead of men. The Australian paper, the Herald, said the antigay chant was also used on Australian keeper Lydia Williams and the Canadian goalie Stephanie Labbe. Labbe is an openly LGBT player.
Megan Rapinoe, the midfielder for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, told The Los Angeles Times that she doesn’t believe those fans “would have said that directly to my face. I don’t think they mean it in that way.”
“But they need to understand that that’s how it’s taken. They need to understand if all of you are willing to do that, what does that say to a gay player? Especially in the men’s game,” the out player told the Times.
Carolina Almiron, a FIFA spokeswoman, told the Times that she didn’t hear the antigay slur while she was watching the game. “I don’t think it’s an issue,” the spokeswoman told the paper. Almiron said that FIFA would not be taking any action on the issue unless there was a “formal protest” from the U.S.
“I don’t think that all Brazilians fans or everyone that was there last night is homophobic,” Rapinoe told the Times. “But I think that they are complicit in it as long as they’re doing it. FIFA can crack down as much as they want but it’s up to individuals in the stands to not participate in that kind of behavior.”