'I'm finally myself' – Brazil's Igor Benevenuto becomes first FIFA referee to come out as gay – Goal.com

Brazilian referee Igor Benevenuto has become the first FIFA-ranked referee in football history to come out as gay, as he laid bare his struggles with the sport’s “macho” culture over his years on the pitch.
Benevenuto, 41, is considered one of his nation’s top officials and entered the FIFA list in 2021.
But he admits he had to live almost a double life over the past two decades in football, while expressing his joy that he is finally ready to be himself.
Speaking to Globoesporte in a podcast recording released on Friday, the referee gave a frank account of his struggles hiding his sexuality as he rose up the ranks.
“Football is a sport which I grew up hating deeply,” he affirmed.
“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.”
Benevenuto went on to show his relief that he would no longer have to hide his true self.
“From this day onward I will never again be one of the other versions of Igor that I created,” he 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.”
Copyright © 2022 Goal (Saudi Arabia English) All rights reserved. The information contained in Goal (Saudi Arabia English) may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Goal (Saudi Arabia English)


Leave a Comment