One of the top referees in football, Benevenuto, made his debut in July, thus becoming the first FIFA-rated referee to do so. According to the Brazilian player, homosexuality and bisexuality are more common in football than seen with the naked eye. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel (via Daily mail), he asserts that 30-40% of those involved in men’s football are not forthright.
“Take into account everyone involved in football – officials, managers, players and referees. Thirty to forty percent of them were homosexual or bisexual, or did something at the same time with another man. “
“You’d be surprised at the homosexuals in this industry.”
Benevenuto later shared about the prejudice he faced in Brazil for being gay, revealing that he had been dealing with depression and going through dark times.
Benevenuto, who has been a referee for 24 years, added:
“In Brazil, homosexuality is viewed as a disease similar to alcoholism, which can be cured. I believed it for many years. I was depressed and was going through a dark time.”
He further noted:
“I prayed to God to free me from this terrible disease. Sadly there are still prejudices. I don’t expect the situation to completely change in my lifetime. But I can still be a drop in the ocean of change.”
In May 2022, Blackpool FC star Jake Daniels became the first active footballer in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu (1990). He’s received a lot of love and support from the community since then, which is a testament to the game’s ever-improving inclusivity.
FIFA backs Igor Benevenuto’s decision to launch, promotes inclusivity
Benevenuto picked up a Globo Esporte podcast to announce himself to the world in July. In a statement to the same body, FIFA praised his decision, hoping that it will encourage others to follow suit.
Men’s soccer’s top governing body told Globo Esporte:
“FIFA welcomes and supports referee Igor Benevenuto and his decision to play. As emphasized at other times, FIFA strongly believes that football is for everyone. And for Igor to stay true to himself is an important moment for football in Brazil and other countries around the world. “
The statement further notes:
“We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire more diversity and inclusion in the ‘beautiful game’.”