Referee Igor Benevenuto, a 41-year-old FIFA-ranked Brazilian referee made history recently when he announced that he is gay a few months before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Before now, there was no FIFA-ranked referee who was courageous enough to publicly declare himself or herself as homosexual. From the blues, referee Igor Benevenuto decided to break the jinx at a period when referees are looking forward to being enlisted for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will kick off on November 21 and Benevenuto is expected to be among the top officials in the tournament. But now that he has publicly declared himself as homosexual, it will be interesting to see whether FIFA would consider him as one of the officials in the forthcoming tournament.
Note that Qatar will host the tournament and the country is known for its anti-gay policies which could make it difficult if not impossible for a known gay like referee Igor Benevenuto to officiate games in the tournament.
In an interview with Globoesporte which was released this weekend, referee Benevenuto revealed that he has been hiding the identity of his sexuality for over 20 years. In Globoesporte’s podcast, the Brazilian referee noted that he grew up hating football due to the masculinity attached to it.
Referee Igor Benevenuto, however, admitted that he had to hide his sexuality by becoming a professional football referee, adding that he had dedicated 23 of his 41 years of existence to being a referee in the fake version of himself.
“Football is a sport which I grew up hating deeply,” Benevenuto said.
“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.”
“From this day onward I will never again be one of the other versions of Igor that I created.”
Who is Referee Igor Benevenuto?
Referee Igor Benevenuto was born on December 5, 1980, in Palmeiras de Goiás, Brazil which means that he is a Brazilian and is currently 41-year-old.
As mentioned in an interview with Globoesporte, Benevenuto has been a football referee for over 23 years.
Amid his refereeing duties, the Brazilian referee is a practicing nurse in Brazil. He also volunteers in hospitals in Belo Horizonte.
Since 2021, Benevenuto has been affiliated with the International Football Federation (FIFA ) and is expected to play a role in the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Aside from officiating on the field, Benevenuto had served as a video assistant referee in major football tournaments for both FIFA and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). He is expected to continue in that role in November all things being equal.