Justin Fashanu inducted into Football Hall of Fame: First British player to come out as gay is celebrated on what would have been his 59th birthday
- Fashanu was first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing
- His niece Amal Fashanu received award on his behalf at a Manchester museum
- Fashanu was the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee
- He played for 22 clubs in England, North America, Scotland and New Zealand
The late Justin Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, on what would have been his 59th birthday.
Fashanu was England’s first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing, back in 1990. He took his own life in 1998.
No other top-level player has come out during their career since.
His niece Amal Fashanu, who campaigns against homophobia in sport and is a co-founder of The Justin Fashanu Foundation, received the award on his behalf at the museum in Manchester during LGBT History Month.
Fashanu had a sublime talent and a penchant for scoring spectacular goals – one for Norwich against Liverpool in February 1980 was voted goal of the season.
Fashanu was England’s first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing, back in 1990. He took his own life in 1998
He was the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee with his move from Norwich to Nottingham Forest in 1981.
He played for a total of 22 clubs in England, North America, Scotland and New Zealand.
Amal Fashanu said: ‘Today would have been Uncle Justin’s 59th birthday and what a way to celebrate it on his behalf.
‘One of my favourite memories of Uncle Justin was his playful, cheeky character. He was so fun to be around and he would have been the life and soul of this event.
‘Justin Fashanu was talented, smart, well-loved and charming. It warms my heart to witness his legacy being honoured more than 21 years after his untimely passing.
‘It’s unfortunate that we are still discussing discrimination in football in 2020 and it’s because of this harsh reality that we decided to create a platform in his name to tackle homophobia, racism and mental health within the game.
Fashanu was the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee with his move from Norwich to Nottingham Forest in 1981
‘The Justin Fashanu Foundation would like to thank the National Football Museum and all stakeholders involved who came together to honour my Uncle Justin.’
Fashanu’s induction coincided with the launch of the National Football Museum’s LGBT+ Tour. The tour features objects from the museum’s collection which tell the story of LGBT+ history within the context of football.
A decade after coming out, he took his own life. His body was found in a garage in East London on May 2, 1998.
His brother, John Fashanu, was also an accomplished footballer who had a memorable spell at Wimbledon where he won the FA Cup, and was capped for England.
In a Mail On Sunday interview last year John admitted he acted like a ‘monster’ towards his brother after discovering he was homosexual in 1990.
‘Initially I didn’t believe him,’ says Fashanu, who now runs a Sports Academy in Nigeria. ‘When I confronted him and he said he was gay, I just thought he was doing it for attention.’
A decade after coming out, Fashanu took his own life. His body was found in a garage in East London on May 2, 1998.
John now regrets that he was part of the culture that condemned his brother to death.
And, in a total volte-face has urged other gay players to ‘come out’ and change the face of the sport.
John and his eldest daughter Amal launched the foundation on April 1 in an attempt to stamp out homophobia in football and increase the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender players (LGBT) in the sport.
National Football Museum chief executive Tim Desmond said: ‘We’re delighted to present this award to Amal Fashanu on behalf of Justin and the Justin Fashanu Foundation.
‘The National Football Museum Hall of Fame aims to recognise a wide diversity of individuals who’ve made an outstanding contribution to the game.
John (left) expressed regret at how he dealt with his brother when he came out as gay
‘Justin was a pioneer on many levels and with this award we acknowledge not only Justin’s legacy but also the importance of the LGBT+ community within football.’
Stephen Fry celebrated Fashanu’s induction by donning a special scarf to mark the occasion.
The scarf celebrates Fashanu’s goal of the season effort against Liverpool in 1980, with some of the wording written in the colours of the Pride flag.
Fry tweeted: ‘My fellow @norwichcityfc @ProudCanaries have produced this scarf celebrating #JustinFashanu and his Goal of the Season.
‘I’m more than proud to wear it today – his birthday – and the day he is inducted into the @FootballMuseum Hall of Fame’.
Justin Fashanu the Norwich City striker relaxing by a pool in 1981
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