Igor Benevenuto, a 41-year-old sportsman, made sports history by becoming the first openly gay FIFA-ranked referee in football (or soccer, depending on where you’re from).
Benevenuto was a guest on the Globo GE podcast ‘In Locker Rooms’ when he made the landmark decision to come out on air.
It happened on July 8, 2022, when the referee told the hosts:
Soccer was for men and since an early age I knew I was gay. There was not a more perfect place to hide my sexuality. Playing wasn’t an option, so I took the only road I had. There are many gay people in soccer. We exist and we deserve to speak about it, live normal lives.
Igor first started working for FIFA in 2021 as a video referee. However, he also serves as an in-person referee for high-ranking leagues just below FIFA.
Hailing from Brazil, Benevenuto is particularly courageous to come due to his country’s stance on LGBT individuals. While gay marriage is legal in Brazil, it’s still considered very taboo and hundreds of gay people are targeted for attacks every year.
FIFA made a statement saying:
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. We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the beautiful game.
Congratulations, Igor, on living your most authentic life. Welcome to the team! Pun intended!