"You would be surprised" - FIFA's only openly gay referee Igor Benevenuto believes 40% of footballers are gay or bisexual

Igor Benevenuto claims 30-40% people in men
Igor Benevenuto claims 30-40% people in men's football are either gay or bisexual

Brazilian official Igor Benevenuto, who is FIFA's only openly gay referee, has claimed that up to 40% of people associated with men’s football are either gay or bisexual.

One of the top referees in football, Benevenuto, came out in July, thus becoming the first ever FIFA-ranked referee to do so. According to the Brazilian, homosexuality and bisexuality are a lot more widespread in football than meets the eye. In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel (via the Daily Mail), he claimed that 30-40% of the people associated with men’s football are not straight.

He said:

“Let's take into account every person involved in football - officials, managers, players and referees. Thirty to forty percent of them are homosexual or bisexual, or have done something at one time with another man."

He added:

“You would be surprised at just who is homosexual in this industry.”

Benevenuto then opened up about the prejudice he faced in Brazil for being gay, revealing that he had to cope with depression and go through dark times.

Benevenuto, who has been a referee for 24 years, added:

“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.”

He further noted:

“I used to pray to God to free me from this illness. 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.”

In May 2022, Blackpool FC starlet Jake Daniels became the first active footballer in England to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu (1990). He has received plenty of love and support from the community since, which is a testament to the game’s ever-improving inclusiveness.

FIFA supported Igor Benevenuto’s decision to come out, promoting inclusivity

Benevenuto chose a Globo Esporte podcast to announce himself to the world in July. In a statement to the same outlet, FIFA lauded his decision, hoping that it would encourage others to follow suit.

The leading governing body in men's football told Globo Esporte:

“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."

The statement further noted:

“We hope this decision will encourage others and inspire greater diversity and inclusion in the 'beautiful game.’”