Referee Igor Benevenuto comes out as homosexual. A courageous step, because the referee from Brazil could be used as a video referee at the World Cup in Qatar. The 41-year-old is tired of the game of hide-and-seek and accompanies his coming-out with remarkable words.

A coming out in male professional football still requires great courage, for referee Igor Benevenuto the public confession to his homosexuality is much more. Namely a courageous decision that is recognized worldwide – and could put the world football association FIFA and World Cup host Qatar to the test.

Because the Brazilian is on the FIFA list of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) and could theoretically have been nominated for the finals in November and December in the Persian Gulf. In an absolutist state in which homosexual acts are forbidden with draconian punishments up to and including flogging. And in which official World Cup hotels even recently rejected booking requests from openly homosexual people.

Nevertheless – and perhaps because of this – the 41-year-old is tired of the game of hide-and-seek. “I’ve spent my life sacrificing myself to protect myself from the physical and emotional violence of homophobia. I want to be able to have relationships, I want to be a referee in peace,” said Benevenuto.

Can he really do that in Qatar? As recently as May, FIFA President Gianni Infantino promised that everyone is welcome in Qatar, regardless of their sexual orientation. But now the Gulf state is under even more scrutiny, and doubts will remain until the World Cup final is played on December 18th.

In everyday life in Qatar, “homosexuals and trans people really have to live in a climate of fear,” said Sven Lehmann, the federal government’s commissioner for the acceptance of sexual and same-sex diversity. Oliver Bierhoff, DFB managing director of the national teams and academy, also recently called the harassment of homosexuals in Qatar “dramatic.” His double life, which he led for 23 years, also felt dramatic for Benevenuto: “I will only be Igor. A gay man without a filter and finally myself.”