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'I'm the only referee who has come out of the closet'

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'I'm the only referee who has come out of the closet'
File photo of a rainbow flag in a football stadium. Photo: Movilh Chile/Flickr Creative Commons.
12:58 CEST+02:00
As Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo battles his own spate of homophobic attacks, Spain's first openly gay referee has opened up about his experiences working in a machismo sport.

On March 26th, 21-year-old referee Jesús Tomillero was overseeing a football game between teenager clubs in La Línea de la Concepción, Andalucia.

"The game was going on normally," Tomillero told online newspaper El Español on Monday, "until the kit man of the local team got angry about an offside offence and began to protest from the sidelines, without stopping.

After Tomillero repeatedly asked the man to settle down, and he would not stop, the referee told the man he would have to throw him out. That's when the man barked back with slurs.

"You're a cocksucker, and you like to take it in the ass, maricón [faggot]," the man shouted.

The comments struck a particular chord as Tomillero is the first and only Spanish referee to come out as gay.

Another official overseeing security refused to call the police about the altercation, saying that the referee "liked to ask for trouble" and others joked about calling the firefighters.

Another 45 minutes passed and the kit man had not stopped shouting "maricón" and "cocksucker" at Tomillero until the final whistle. 

After the game in the locker room, Tomillero heard someone throwing stones at the window. He looked and saw it was three of the 15-year-old football players. As he left, someone threatened that he "shouldn't referee anymore".

At home, Tomillero said he started to cry and decided to share his story on Facebook.

 

https://youtu.be/K6hFqdGO4tk

Posted by Jesus Tomillero on Monday, April 4, 2016

Tomillero has since become an outspoken figure against homophobia in football, with groups including the Association for Iberian Sports LGBT and the Union of Referees rallying behind him. 

The kit man who verbally attacked him that day ultimately was punished with a nine-game suspension and a €30 fine, though the Union of Referees called these sanctions "laughable".

Tomillero's story has also become all the more relevant after Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo (who identifies as straight) was derided with shouts of "maricón" at a match with rival Barcelona last weekend last weekend.

The Spanish Observatory against LGBT-phobia announced a formal complaint to the Spanish government on Monday over Ronaldo's attacks, also condemning Tomillero's discrimination as  "incomprehensible and disgraceful".

The referee himself commented on Ronaldo's experience in the interview with El Español, calling it "shameful". Whether or not Ronaldo is gay is to Tomillero "insiginificant".

"If he were and came out, he would be admired more than anyone," the referee said.

Tomillero also said that there are probably "thousands" of other gay Spanish referees who are too afraid to come out.

Despite his negative experiences, Tomillero said he would continue to referee.

"I am going to carry on for all of us, not just for me," he said. "There are many closeted gays in Spanish football, including in the first and second division. They are afraid of discrimination... I understand them. But it does not scare me. I only want to be respected."

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