Oslo (dpa) – Norwegian top referee Tom Harald Hagen was one of the first top referees in football to make his homosexuality public.

“I feel the time is right and I cannot imagine it will have any other than positive consequences for me,” said the 42-year-old FIFA referee in an interview with Norwegian local newspaper “Glåmdalen”. Being gay has always been a natural part of his life.

In Norway, Hagen is one of the country’s best-known referees. He had led the Eliteserien game between Vålerenga and Kristiansund on Sunday, in which Kristiansund striker Flamur Kastrati called Vålerenga coach Dag-Eilev Fagermo a “jævla soper” – which roughly translates as “damn fagot”. Kastrati used to play for VfL Osnabrück, MSV Duisburg and Erzgebirge Aue in Germany.

“That’s the tip of the irony that I, of all people, whistled this game,” Hagen told the newspaper. He didn’t hear Kastrati’s statements during the match, but he didn’t want to condemn him either. Presumably the statement was made unknowingly, perhaps it belongs to slang in certain parts of the football community. “But we have to get that out,” said Hagen.

The referee received a lot of public support and was described by several sides as a role model. “It is fantastic that Tom Harald shares his story, paving the way for more tolerance and acceptance of the diversity in sport,” said Culture and Equality Minister Abid Raja of the Verdens Gang newspaper.

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