These are moving words that Igor Benevenuto addressed to the football community. In the podcast Nos Armários dos Vestiários, the Brazilian Fifa referee recently opened up about his homosexuality, saying: “I’ve spent my life sacrificing myself to protect myself from the physical and emotional violence of homophobia.”
Football is a hostile environment for gay people, mainly because of the “macho culture”. In order to survive, he hid for a long time and was a “masked version” of himself. That is only changing now, a few months before the World Cup in Qatar.
“From this day forward, I will never again be any of the other versions of Igor that I created,” Benevenuto said on the podcast, adding, “I will just be Igor, a gay man who respects people and their choices. “
Benevenuto is the second active Fifa referee to make his homosexuality public. Two years ago, Tom Harald Hagen, referee from Norway, came out, which was celebrated worldwide as an important sign. Benevenuto is on the world association’s list of video referees for 2022, so it could also be nominated for the World Cup in Qatar. There homosexuality is criminalized and theoretically even the death penalty would be possible.
But not only in Qatar, but also in his home country Brazil, queer people are exposed to great danger. Hostilities and violent incidents have increased under Head of State Bolsonaro in recent years. According to the organization “Grupe Gay de Bahia”, at least 320 queer people died as a result of violence in 2019 alone. “This isn’t just about prejudice, it’s about death,” Benevenuto said. “I want to be able to have relationships, I want to be a referee in peace.”
Qatar had declared a few months ago that it would allow rainbow flags in the stadiums during the World Cup and Fifa President Gianni Infantino said: “Everyone will see that everyone is welcome here in Qatar, even if we are talking about LGBTQ.” But personal reports and journalistic ones Research paints a different picture: a survey commissioned by several Scandinavian TV stations showed that gay guests were rejected by some World Cup hotels.
The journalists had posed as married gay couples, whereupon 20 out of 69 hotels expressed reservations and some refused outright. Nas Mohamed, who was the first Qatari to publicly say he was gay, also emphasized in an interview with the Tagesspiegel: “Even if they allowed the flags, that would be pure hypocrisy. We queer Qataris are still mistreated.”