closet door bustdown

Top soccer ref Igor Benevenuto comes out ahead of World Cup in anti-LGBTQ Qatar

Brazilian soccer referee Igor Benevenuto has reportedly become the first FIFA-ranked ref to come out as gay.

The 41-year-old said that there are “many gay people in soccer,” and hopes to inspire closeted athletes to speak their truth.

“Soccer was for men, and since an early age I knew I was gay… there was not a more perfect place to hide my sexuality,” Benevenuto told the Nos Armários dos Vestiários podcast.

“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.

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“There are many gay people in soccer. We exist and we deserve to speak about it, live normal lives.”

FIFA responded in a statement via GloboEsporte, writing: “FIFA welcomes and supports referee Igor Benevenuto and his decision to come out. As highlighted at other times, FIFA strongly believes that football is for everyone. And Igor striving to be true to himself is an important moment for football in Brazil and in other countries around the world.

“We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the ‘beautiful game’.”

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The statement rings a tad hollow as this year’s FIFA World Cup is taking place in Qatar, where queer people face rampant discrimination and criminalization. Male same-sex relations are illegal in the country, and punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

Last year, 21-year-old Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo came out as gay, making him one of the few active players to do so.

In an emotional clip posted online, Cavallo said: “There’s something personal that I need to share with everyone: I’m a footballer, and I am gay.”

He went on to say, “I was ashamed I’d never be able to do what I love, and be gay … All I want to do is play football and be treated equally. I’m tired of trying to perform at the best of your ability and to live this double life. It’s exhausting. It’s something that I don’t want anyone to experience.”

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