Top football referee defiantly comes out as gay after player used vile homophobic slur in the middle of a match
Leading Norwegian football referee Tom Harald Hagen has come out publicly as gay and revealed his sexuality has “always been a completely natural” part of his life.
Hagen, who has been refereeing in the Norwegian top football league since 2008, was at a match between Kristiansund and Valerenga football clubs on Sunday (25 October) when player Flamur Kastrati allegedly used a homophobic slur against opposing coach Dag-Eilev Fagermo.
Speaking about his decision to come out publicly, Hagen said: “I feel the time is right and I think that only positive things will come out of this.
“I have gradually become confident in myself, and my life is very good.
“I feel it is important to make it safe, including the fact that I am gay. I have lived like that all my life, my relationship, my family – and my football family. Then I can go with my head held high – except when we miss out on some decisions on the football field.”
He continued: “For me, it has always been a completely natural part of life.”
Norwegian referee Tom Harald Hagen said we ‘have to get rid’ of homophobia in football.
The referee said it was a “slightly scary thing” to come out in the media, but he said he was spurred on after the homophobic slur was reportedly used on the pitch.
“It is the height of irony that I was just leading that match. Maybe he said it on a whim, that can happen in football. But we have to get rid of it.”
He also said he does not want to judge the player who has been accused of using the slur, saying: “To be clear, I’m not mad at him, nor do I judge him. What he said probably just slipped out in the heat of the moment. That is still a common slang in the football environment. But we have to overcome that because it prevents many from playing football.”
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Homophobia and racism remain common problems in football, according to recent statistics from UK advocacy organisation Kick It Out.
The group, which monitors discrimination in football, found that there was a significant rise in abuse at both football matches and in discussions about football online in the last season.
There was a 42 per cent increase in reports of discrimination in professional football, up from 313 last year to 446 in the 2019/20 football season.
Alarmingly, there were 117 reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation, almost double the 60 incidents recorded last year (up 95 per cent).
There was also a 53 per cent increase in racist discrimination in football – 282, up from 184 last year.