Igor Benevenuto is doubling down on the fact that more athletes are gay or bi than people think.
Benevenuto, who is the first FIFA referee to come out as gay, has recently claimed that 30 to 40 percent of people involved in the world of football/soccer are gay or bisexual. For all of you Instinct readers, that might sound obvious. But there are still sports fans who think that’s crazy.
Benevenuto told German magazine Der Spiegel, “Let’s take into account all the people involved in football: officials, coaches, players and referees. Between 30 and 40 percent are homosexual or bisexual, or have done something at some point with another man. You’d be surprised who is homosexual in the football industry.”
The 41-year-old Brazilian has been a referee for 24 years, and says he’s experienced prejudice in his home country.
He shared, “In Brazil homosexuality is seen as an illness similar to alcoholism, which can be overcome. I believed that for years. I suffered from depression and went through dark times.I used to pray to God to free me from this illness.”
Benevenuto then said that thanks to his life getting better, he can help the lives of others.
The referee added, “Sadly there is still prejudice. I don’t expect the situation to completely alter during my lifetime. But I can still be a drop in the ocean of change.”
Igor Benevenuto came out as gay in July. This makes him the first openly gay referee in all of FIFA. And again, that only happened last month.
Benevenuto came out in an interview with the Globo group’s podcast ‘En los Armarios de los Vestuarios.’ In the interview the referee also talked about all the closeted sports officials in the industry.
He said, “there are referees, players, coaches, married, with children, separated, with a double life, there is everything. We exist and we deserve the right to talk about this, to live normally.”
In a statement to Globo Esporte, FIFA said: “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.”
They added, “We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the ‘beautiful game.”