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Rio 2016

Women's Soccer Players Jeered with Homophobic Slurs at Olympics

The chants occurred during the U.S. women's soccer game against New Zealand on Wednesday, and Canada's game against Australia on Thursday.

by Liam Daniel Pierce
Aug 8 2016, 1:45pm

Canadian national team goalie Stephanie Labbe, who publicly identifies as gay, had to endure homophobic chants of "bicha" during goal kicks against Australia. Photo by European Pressphoto Agency

Men's soccer is already mired in homophobic chants, and it seems that now slurs are making their way over to women's Olympic soccer as well. In Rio, during the early stint of women's soccer games, players—both those who publicly identify as gay and those who don't—had to endure the sounds of fans yelling "bicha" (essentially "faggot" in Brazilian slang, and similar to Mexico's "puto" chant) at them during goal kicks. While the chant is horrifyingly common among men's games in Brazil, the Australian Associated Press says that it was the first time that many Brazilian journalists have heard it at a women's game.

The slurs were yelled by fans during the U.S. women's soccer game against New Zealand on Wednesday, and Canada's game against Australia on Thursday, according to Out Sports. Both Canadian goal keeper Stephanie Labbe and U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe publicly identify as lesbian, as does U.S. head coach Jill Ellis.

Rapinoe told the Los Angeles Times, "It is personally hurtful. I think sort of a mob mentality kind of takes over a little bit."

"I don't think most of those fans would have said that directly to my face," Rapinoe continued. "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.

"What does that say to players who are struggling to come out?"

The chants allegedly started during the U.S. game, when the Los Angeles Times notes that chants of "Zika!" were thrown at Hope Solo during goal kicks—presumably commentary on her tweet donning anti-mosquito gear—as a more light-hearted joke on her. But soon, chants of "bicha" started to get mixed in as well.

The chants continued on Thursday, and while they're typically targeted at goal keepers, they took on a deeper cut when Canada's Labbe would go for her goal kicks.

"I don't understand the language or the culture or where that has evolved from," Canadian coach Alen Stajcic told the Australian Associated Press. "It's not really for me to say around the the culture of that comment and how it has evolved in Brazilian football because that is maybe a negative. And I don't know, as I said, the history behind it." He later added, "It doesn't sound pleasant."

FIFA has fined the men's national teams of Chile, Argentina, Peru, Honduras, Mexico, and Uruguay over their fans' use of homophobic slurs, and Croatia will be forced to play in front of an empty home stadium. When approached about the behavior by the Los Angeles Times, however, FIFA spokeswoman Carolina Almiron said that she didn't really hear the chant while watching the U.S. game on TV, and that "I don't think it's an issue." She said that without a formal protest from any team, FIFA would take no action.