Justin Fashanu

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Justin Fashanu
Justin Fashanu www.7sur7.be.jpg
Personal information
Full name Justinus Soni Fashanu
Date of birth 19 February 1961(1961-02-19)
Place of birth Hackney, London, England
Date of death 2 May 1998(1998-05-02) (aged 37)
Place of death Shoreditch, London, England
Playing position Forward
Youth career
Norwich City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1978–1981 Norwich City 90 (35)
1980 Adelaide City (loan) 5 (3)
1981 → Adelaide City (loan) 6 (2)
1981–1982 Nottingham Forest 32 (3)
1982 Southampton (loan) 9 (3)
1982–1985 Notts County 64 (20)
1985–1987 Brighton & Hove Albion 16 (2)
1988 Los Angeles Heat 12 (5)
1989 Edmonton Brickmen 26 (17)
1989 Manchester City 2 (0)
1989–1990 West Ham United 2 (0)
1990 Leyton Orient 5 (0)
1990 Hamilton Steelers
1991 Southall 6 (1)
1991 Toronto Blizzard ? (7)
1991 Leatherhead
1991 Newcastle United 0 (0)
1991–1993 Torquay United 41 (15)
1993 Airdrieonians 16 (5)
1993 Trelleborg 1 (0)
1993–1994 Heart of Midlothian 11 (1)
1995–1997 Atlanta Ruckus[1][2][3] 3? (2?)
1997 Miramar Rangers 18 (12)
National team
1980–1982 England U21 11 (5)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Justinus Soni "Justin" Fashanu ( /ˈfæʃən/; 19 February 1961 – 2 May 1998) was an English footballer who played for a variety of clubs between 1978 and 1997. He was known by his early clubs to be gay, and came out to the press later in his career, becoming the first and one of only two English professional footballers to be openly gay.[4] He was also the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee, with his transfer from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981, but had little success as a player afterwards, although he continued to play at senior level until 1994.

After moving to the United States, in 1998 he was questioned by police when a seventeen-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault, for which he was charged,[5][6] and an arrest warrant for him was issued in Howard County, Maryland on 3 April 1998, but he had already left his flat.[5] According to his suicide note, fearing he would not get a fair trial because of his homosexuality,[6] he fled to England[6] where he killed himself in London in May 1998.[5][6] His suicide note stated that the sex was consensual.[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Fashanu was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in the UK and a Guyanese nurse called Pearl.[7] When his parents split up, he and his brother, John, were sent to a Barnardo's home. When he was six, he and his brother were fostered by Alf and Betty Jackson and were brought up in Shropham near Attleborough, Norfolk. Justin Fashanu excelled at boxing as a youth, and was rumoured at one time to be pursuing a professional boxing career instead of his footballing career.

Football career[edit]

Fashanu began his career as an apprentice with Norwich City, turning professional towards the end of December 1978. He made his league debut on 13 January 1979, against West Bromwich Albion, and settled into the Norwich side scoring regularly and occasionally spectacularly. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a spectacular goal against Liverpool. He managed a total of 103 senior appearance for Norwich, scoring 40 goals. While at the club he was also capped six times for England at under-21 level.[8]

He subsequently became Britain's first £1million black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in August 1981 as successor to the departing Trevor Francis.

His career stalled as his professional relationship with Brian Clough deteriorated; Clough, it would appear, was disturbed by the rumours of Justin Fashanu's visits to gay nightclubs and bars. His goals and then confidence dried up as he failed to fit in with the playing and lifestyle demands of Clough, especially after Clough had discovered his homosexuality and barred him from training with the side.

In his autobiography, Clough recounts a dressing down he gave Fashanu after hearing rumours that he was going to gay bars. "'Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?' I asked him. 'A baker's, I suppose.' 'Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?' 'A butcher's.' 'So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs' club?"'[9]

In August 1982, he was loaned to Southampton (scoring 3 goals in 9 appearances).[10] At The Dell, Fashanu settled in well and his promising form helped the "Saints" overcome the sudden departure of Kevin Keegan; manager Lawrie McMenemy would have liked to make the move permanent, but was prevented from doing so by lack of funds.[11]

In December 1982, he was sold to local rivals Notts County for £150,000. He scored 20 times in 64 games for the Magpies before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion in June 1985 for a fee of £115,000, where a knee injury looked to have finished his career. He went to the United States for surgery and began playing again, firstly with Los Angeles Heat and then to Canada with the Edmonton Brickmen and with the Hamilton Steelers.

He returned to the UK and tried to resurrect his playing career, joining Manchester City on 23 October 1989, and played twice in the First Division, but on 20 November, barely a month after joining the club, he moved to West Ham United, later having a trial with Ipswich Town. He joined Leyton Orient in March 1990 and subsequently joined non-league Southall as player-coach before spending a summer with Toronto Blizzard. After leaving Toronto he returned to England to sign for semi-pro Surrey team Leatherhead.

In 1990, he publicly came out as gay in an interview with the tabloid press, becoming the only prominent player in English football so far to do so. Although he claimed that he was generally well accepted by his fellow players, he freely admitted that they would often joke maliciously about his sexual orientation, and he also became the target of constant crowd abuse because of it.[12]

He began a trial with Newcastle United on 24 October 1991, making one first-team appearance as a sub against Peterborough United.[13] Manager Ossie Ardiles refused to give him a permanent contract. He signed for Torquay United on 23 November 1991. He hogged the limelight while at Plainmoor: in particular, his relationship with Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear featured in tabloid newspapers; but he still managed to impress on the pitch, playing 21 league games that season and scoring 10 goals, though he was unable to save Torquay from suffering relegation from the Third Division.

When Ivan Golac was appointed manager of Torquay in February 1992, Fashanu was given the role of assistant manager and maintained this position at the end of the season when Golac was replaced by new manager Paul Compton.

On 13 April 1992, Fashanu received a £265 fine and a 28-day driving ban after being found guilty of speeding and failing to produce his driving licence.

In February 1993, with Torquay battling against a second successive relegation, from the new Division Three to the Football Conference, Fashanu applied for the vacant post of manager following Compton's departure, but was turned down in favour of Neil Warnock. Fashanu left Torquay, having scored 15 goals in 41 games for the Gulls. He went to play for Airdrieonians soon after but was unable to save them from suffering relegation from the Scottish Premier Division.

He left Airdrie in 1993, playing in Sweden with Trelleborg, before returning to Scotland, joining Heart of Midlothian in July 1993, but had his contract terminated in February 1994 for 'unprofessional conduct' (he had attempted to sell false stories regarding him and a number of cabinet ministers to the press),[14] and returned to the United States to coach a boys' team in Georgia. He later moved to Atlanta Ruckus, but was suspended for the playoffs for failure to comply with the terms of his contract, before joining Miramar Rangers in New Zealand in 1997. He then moved to Ellicott City, Maryland to coach the Maryland Mania, a new professional team in the second division USL A-League, following his officially announced retirement from the professional game.

Coming out in the press[edit]

Fashanu agreed to an exclusive with The Sun tabloid to come out as gay. They ran the headline as "£1m Football Star: I AM GAY" on 22 October 1990.[15] He claimed to have had an affair with a married Conservative MP, whom he first met in a London gay bar. "We ended up in bed together at his London flat," he said.[16] A week later, his brother John Fashanu agreed to an exclusive with The Voice under the headline "John Fashanu: My Gay Brother is an outcast."[17] Justin Fashanu was interviewed for the July 1991 cover story of Gay Times, where the situation was summarised as:

The Sun dragged out the tale with titillating stories of sexual encounters with unnamed MPs, football players and pop stars, which, he claims, were largely untrue. The revelations, nevertheless, earned him a considerable sum of money but he says he was offered even more by others who wanted him to stay in the closet. He admits that he wasn't fully prepared for the backlash that followed and his career in football ... has suffered "heavy damage". Although he's fully fit, no club has offered him a full-time contract since the story first appeared.[18] In 1992 he agreed to front Loud'n'proud a new national radio series aimed at young lesbians and gay men, but the pilot with Fashanu presenting was turned down by BBC Radio Five; it was later commissioned with a female presenter for BBC Radio 1.[19]

Allegation and suicide[edit]

In March 1998, a seventeen-year-old claimed to police that he had been sexually assaulted by Fashanu after a night of drinking. Homosexual acts were illegal in Maryland at the time,[5] and the youth stated the act was not consensual but being performed as he awoke.[5] The assault was alleged to have taken place in Fashanu's apartment in Ellicott City, Maryland, United States. Fashanu was questioned about this by the police on 3 April, but he was not held in custody. The police later arrived at his flat with a warrant to arrest him on charges of second-degree sexual assault, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault, but Fashanu had already fled to England.[5][20][21]

On the morning of 3 May, he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London,[22] after visiting Chariots Roman Spa, a local gay sauna.[23] In his suicide note, he denied the charges, stating that the sex was consensual,[5][6] and that he had fled to England because he felt he could not get a fair trial because of his homosexuality,[6] and he added: "I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family."[21] An inquest held in London through 9 September heard evidence from a Scotland Yard detective that the Americans made no request for Fashanu to be found or arrested, and the Coroner stated that he was not a wanted man at the time he hanged himself. The Times and the BBC reported that an arrest warrant had been issued by Howard County District Court on 3 April, that he had been charged with second-degree sexual assault and first-degree and second-degree assaults punishable by up to 20 years in jail, and that Howard County police would have requested his extradition had they known he fled to England. The inquest recorded a verdict of suicide.[5][6]

Fashanu's remains were cremated and his ashes given to his family in Norfolk.[24]

John Fashanu later regretted some of the comments he made when his brother first came out.[25] In an interview with TalkSPORT in 2012, John Fashanu subsequently claimed his brother was not gay and was merely an attention seeker.[26]

Legacy[edit]

Fashanu was listed at number 99 in the Top 500 Lesbian and Gay Heroes in The Pink Paper.[27]

In March 2009 a football team, The Justin Fashanu All-stars, was christened at a special event in Brighton, supported by the FA.[28] The team, named in his honour, was created by the Justin Campaign, which is a campaign against homophobia in football and promotes the inclusion of openly gay players in football.[29]

In July 2013, the French film composer Jann Halexander composed a short requiem in his memory.[30]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. "A-League 1995 season". A-Leaguearchive.tripod.com. 11 August 1995. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  2. "Seattle Sounders 7–0 Atlanta Ruckus". Seattlepitch.tripod.com. 8 June 1997. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  3. "A-League 1997 season". A-Leaguearchive.tripod.com. 27 July 1997. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  4. Fashanu, Amal (4 February 2012). "The Sports Charter shines a welcome light on homophobia in football". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Dominic Kennedy (10 September 1998). "US police say Fashanu lied about his sexuality". The Times. "Howard County Police yesterday gave The Times the first details of Fashanu's alleged lies." 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 "Suicide verdict on footballer Fashanu". BBC News. 9 September 1998. 
  7. Jones, Tobias (17 May 1998). "A Game Of Two Halves". The Independent (London). 
  8. "Justin Fashanu". Ex-Canaries. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  9. Clough, Brian (1995). Clough: The Autobiography. Corgi Adult. p. 319 pages. ISBN 0-552-14003-1. 
  10. Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (1992). The Alphabet of the Saints. ACL & Polar Publishing. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-9514862-3-3. 
  11. Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (2003). In That Number – A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC. Hagiology. p. 510. ISBN 0-9534474-3-X. 
  12. Rogers, Martin (1 May 2013). "Before Jason Collins, there was Justin Fashanu". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  13. [1][dead link]
  14. "The striker who didn't score: Justin Fashanu, dribbling round Westminster". The Independent. 12 February 1994. Retrieved `0 August 2014. 
  15. The Sun (22 October 1990). £1m Football Star: I AM GAY. News Group Newspapers. 
  16. Soccer star in gay romp. Herald Sun. 23 October 1990. 
  17. The Voice (newspaper) (30 October 1990). John Fashanu: My Gay Brother is an outcast. GV Media Group. 
  18. Marshall, John (July 1991). "Justin Fashanu: Soccer's enigmatic gay star". Gay Times (Millivres) (154). 
  19. Karpf, Anne (18 September 1993). "Radio: Gay Scene And Heard". The Guardian (London). p. 30. "Like its predecessor Channel 4's stylish Out On Tuesday, Loud And Proud relishes camp, and presenter Paulette is amusingly unretiring. Each week there's a report on the gay and lesbian scene in a different city (last week Dublin)." 
  20. "Fashanu 'may have fled US'". BBC News. 2 May 1998. "American police think the former British football star Justin Fashanu may have skipped the country after a sexual assault charge." 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Powell, Vicky (June 1998). "Suicide note increases speculation over death of Justin Fashanu". Gay Times (Millivres) (237). 
  22. "Justin Fashanu found hanged in lock-up garage". The Independent (London). 4 May 1998. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  23. "Chariots". Gaysauna.co.uk. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  24. "Justin Fashanu (1961–1998): Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  25. "The silence over gay footballers". BBC News. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  26. "John Fashanu: my brother Justin wasn't gay". The Telegraph (London). 16 March 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  27. The Pink Paper, 26 September 1997, issue 500, page 15.
  28. "Team named after Justin Fashanu". BBC News. 7 March 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  29. "The Justin Campaign". The Justin Campaign. 2 May 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  30. Requiem for a gay footballer

References[edit]

External links[edit]