FIFA-ranked referee comes out as gay

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Referee Igor Benevenuto has come out as gay and is the first FIFA-ranked official to do so.

Speaking in a recent interview, the 42-year-old Brazilian said: “Football is a sport which I grew up hating deeply.

“I couldn’t stand the atmosphere, the macho culture and the prejudice disguised as horseplay. To survive among the circle of kids who always used to play I put together a character, a masked version of myself.

“Football was a man’s game, and from an early age I knew I was gay. There couldn’t have been a better place to hide my sexuality. But playing wasn’t a feasible long-term option, so I went for the only road open: I became a referee.

“I am 41, and 23 of those years have been dedicated to the whistle. Until today I’ve never been the real me. Gays are used to not being themselves.

“We tone down our attitudes to not disappoint the hetero world’s expectations. I spent my entire life sacrificing who I am to protect myself from the physical and emotional violence of homophobia. And I entered one of the most hostile environments for a homosexual. That’s why I say that I hated football.”

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Benevenuto went on to explain how relieved he feels by being able to be true to himself.

“From this day onward I will never again be one of the other versions of Igor that I created,” the referee added.

“I will not be the referee Igor character, the character I was for friends, for family, the neighbours, for the straight society.

“I will just be Igor, a gay man, who respects people and their choices. No masks. Just Igor. Without a filter and finally myself.”