Sports | October 24, 2022 2:20 pm

Manchester United Is Latest Soccer Team to Have a Homophobic Chant Problem

The team condemned the incident, which took place during a recent game against Chelsea, but it's an issue for the sport as a whole

Head Coach Erik ten Hag of Manchester United during the Premier League match against Chelsea FC at Stamford Bridge during which homophobic chants were heard.
Head Coach Erik ten Hag of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Robin Jones/Getty Images

If you’ve ever attended a soccer game, you probably know that few things can compare to the sound of a full stadium engaged in a chant to support their team. While traditions and songs vary wildly from team to team, it’s a phenomenon that enthusiasts of the sport can see play out in a number of ways. There’s an unpleasant side to that aspect of the game, though — a point when that energy curdles into something hateful.

As the Athletic recently reported, Manchester United is currently investigating homophobic chanting from a group of fans when the team played Chelsea this past weekend. Both clubs immediately condemned the incident, with Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag telling The Athletic, “It doesn’t belong in the stands, I mean the whole stadium.”

Unfortunately, this remains an issue across leagues and for club and national teams alike. Last season, a number of Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) fans engaged in a homophobic chant; use of the same chant also led to a game between all-stars from Major League Soccer and Liga MX being paused. FIFA has also fined Mexico’s soccer federation over the use of the chant at its national team’s games.

The responsibility for ending this is, understandably, on the shoulders of club and national team organizations. In an interview with MLSSoccer.com last year, player Janelly Farias, who is gay, offered some suggestions on ending homophobic chants at games. She pointed to FIFA’s regulations, which — if the chanting goes on for long enough — could lead to a game being suspended.

Farias also spoke about the importance of educating supporters about this kind of behavior. “[I]t doesn’t matter whether you mean it or not, whether it’s intentional or not,” she said. “The truth and the reality is that it is harmful, it is homophobic, and it excludes people and soccer should be universal. Soccer should be inclusive.”

In the case of the Manchester United/Chelsea match, both clubs released statements referencing the need to increase education about why homophobic chanting is wrong. Hopefully, they’ll find that supporters are willing to listen.