World Cup Refs Get a Taste of Mexican Narco Humor

Jun 25, 2014 at 7:56 AM ET

In pro soccer, fans often give referees a hard time, especially during close games. But this World Cup, supporters of Mexico’s national team have taken taunting to the next level.

After a series of questionable calls in the team’s recent matches against Cameroon and Croatia, fans took to social media, berating the refs and calling on their country’s notorious drug cartels to exact revenge.

Most seemed to be calling on Los Zetas, a gang known for its expertise in beheadings and mass executions, to lend a hand. Others kept things classy and added photos of cartel hit men executing people. 

Obviously, the tweets were meant to be jokes. Mexican humor can be pretty dark and morbid, and death seems to pervade just about everything here, from religious sects such as the cult of Holy Death, to national holidays such as the Day of the Dead.

But the latest trend of cartel-related soccer jokes seems like more than just the normal product of this death-obsessed nation of 121 million. Like narco-inspired music, some say the jokes show how people have become desensitized to violence and bloodshed in a place where the drug war has killed an estimated 80,000 people since 2006.

“The drug war has now invaded every aspect of Mexican society, including humor,” says José Reveles, a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. “After years of violence, it is now becoming a natural part of Mexican humor, which is rather dark by nature anyway.”

While it’s unlikely that the cartels would seek retribution for a bad refereeing call, fans may well point back to 1994, when the Colombian goalkeeper was shot dead after the world cup, having conceded an own goal. That death was linked to gangs, who may have had a hand in match-fixing, which the own goal undid in spectacular style.