Spain's first openly gay soccer referee has been placed under police protection after he was allegedly subjected to more homophobic abuse since his decision to return to the game.
Jesus Tomillaro Benavente told a Spanish newspaper he was gay earlier this year, becoming the country's first openly gay referee. But in May, he said he was quitting soccer after receiving a barrage of abuse following the interview. At the time, Tomillero said the decision to leave soccer "hurts me more than anyone".
The 21-year-old decided to return to the game this month, but in his second match back on September10, refereeing between CD Lasalle and Atlético Zabal, he was verbally abused after he gave a Zabal player a penalty.
A Lasalle supporter told Tomillero to "get off for being gay" and even though the man was escorted from the stadium, he later found his way back in and allegedly shouted: "You fucking faggot”.
When Tomillero reported the abuse to the Andaluza Football Federation and then posted online about it, he said homophobic messages started appearing on his social media accounts.
"You son of a bitch. You messed with the club. We’ll kill you with Aids, you faggot," a message sent to the referee said, The Daily Telegraph reported.
In another, posted on his Instagram account, he was sent a particularly graphic image of an unidentified man who had been shot in the head. It was captioned: "The boss is very angry, [he] doesn't like queers in his fields, he suggests you retire or die."
"I am really, really scared,” Tomillero told the Guardian. Tomillero said after receiving the first abusive messages at around 3pm yesterday, he “had a fit of nerves" and decided to go to the police.
"They’re investigating the case, not just here but all over Spain. There are police officers outside my house 24 hours a day, but I’m still afraid and I don’t know what could happen," he told the newspaper.
"I’m going to keep on doing what I like doing, whatever it costs,” Tomillero, who has refereed since he was an 11-year-old, said.
Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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