Gay referee: Let me do my job

Referee (File)
Referee (File)

Berlin - Halil Dincdag is gay and can no longer be a football referee in his home country of Turkey. He is seeking compensation from the domestic football federation, and hopes he can help others with his case.

Halil Dincdag says is he is not afraid, or better, "not any more. It can't get any worse."

Dincdag is a Turkish referee who has come out as gay, and he is suing the Turkish football federation (TFF) for material and mental anguish damages since late 2010 after no longer being able to officiate.

The 38-year-old also wants to be an official referee again.

The court case continues on Friday with a 14th hearing, and Dincdag has been touring Germany again over the past days to tell his story, and to receive the "respect prize" of a German union against homophobia.

"I believe that I will win (in court). From then on it will be easier for everyone," Dincdag says. "That's what I am fighting for until my last breath."

Dincdag receieved the "respect prize" on Monday out of the hands of Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, who came out a few years ago.

Dincdag's struggle started with conscription in 2008, after he had worked as a referee in Trapzon for more than a decade, right up to the second division.

He says he heard a lot about how homosexual men were treated in the military, "ill treatment, rape, there were suicides afterwards."

In order to get out, Dincdag came out before the doctors.

What followed were weeks-long examinations, including in a military hospital.

Human rights organisations have criticised the Turkish military of rating homosexuality a psychological disorder, and the Dincdag's report cited "psychosexual disorder" when he was rejected as unfit after three months in January 2009.

Shortly afterwards his contract at the TFF was not renewed by the federation, which did not want to comment on the case to dpa.

Dincdag's story appeared in a sports paper in May 2009, and a second story using his initials and location made it clear to the other media that it was about him - and he came out.

Since then he has lost his job as a radio host, 150 job applications were sent out in vain, friends have turned their back on him, and he became the target of death threats.

Dincdag fled Trapzon for Istanbul and officiates games there in an unofficial league, for how long he doesn't know.

But he feels "light as a bird" after coming out, has found new friends and his supported by his family who initially didn't know about his homosexuality either.

Dincdag is open about his sexual orientation which can also help overcome old structures in a society like the German one, according to Christian Rudolph from the "football fans against homophobia" initiative.

"Someone with a story like Halil sensitizes," he says. "How many people have came out on sport and want to talk about it? There is only (former St Pauli Hamburg president) Corny Littmann, and (retired Germany midfielder) Thomas Hitzlsperger."

Rudolph says a German referee who comes out won't be expelled by the national federation, but that a question mark remains concerning the reaction from society.

He says that Dincdag is taking the right approach and that his story transcends sport.

Dincdag meanwhile says that "In the beginning it was my personal problem, just mine."

But soon the calls started, the emails and letters from other homosexual Turkish referees, and from athletes who wanted to share their experience and hope to get some help from him.

"That's when I realized this is no longer my case alone," he says.

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