VIDEO. “I am at peace with the world of football”: the coming out of a Brazilian referee

As a teenager, Igor Benevenuto discovered a passion for refereeing: at first it was just a “camouflage” but he is now playing at the highest level. At 41, he no longer hides after deciding to publicly reveal his homosexuality. A way to free yourself from an “emotional burden”, but also to serve as an example and contribute to the fight against intolerance in a country where homophobia is still very present, especially in the world of football.

“I want to show that football is a space for socialization that can accommodate any type of person, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation or any other situation. It is a right that must be respected,” he says from his hometown of Belo Horizonte.

A professional referee since 2009, this man with short brown hair and a grizzled three-day beard regularly officiates in matches in the Brazilian first division. Since last year, he has been one of the official FIFA referees eligible to be lined up in international matches.

“Create a character”

His decision to reveal his homosexuality in the podcast “Os armarios dos vestiarios” (The locker rooms) in July changed his life. “Before, I had to constantly hide, hide my attraction to men,” he says.

In 1994, when the Seleção won their fourth world title in the United States, the young Igor, 13, mainly remembered the colorful jerseys of the referees, who had for the first time abandoned the traditional black dress in the World Cup. And rather than playing with other young people in the neighborhood, the Brazilian teenager decided that from now on he would referee their matches. “It was a way to stay connected to football with a kind of camouflage, to create a character that hides my sexuality,” he concedes. This “camouflage” has become a passion.

One thing is certain, he absolutely does not regret having revealed his homosexuality: “today, I am at peace with the world of football, everyone supports me”


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