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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 (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 Southall 6 (1)
1990 Hamilton Steelers
1991 Toronto Blizzard (7)
1991 Leatherhead
1991–1993 Torquay United 41 (15)
1993 Airdrieonians 16 (5)
1993 Trelleborg 1 (0)
1993–1994 Heart of Midlothian 11 (1)
1995-1996 Adelaide City
1996-1997 Miramar Rangers 18 (12)
1997 Atlanta Ruckus
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Justinus Soni "Justin" Fashanu (pronounced /ˈfæʃənuː/ FASH-ə-noo) (19 February 1961 – 2 May 1998) was an English footballer, who played for a variety of clubs between 1978 and 1997. His 1981 transfer to Nottingham Forest made him Britain's first £1m black footballer.

In 1990 Fashanu encountered hostility after becoming the first, and still the only, prominent footballer to identify himself publicly as gay.

In 1998 he was questioned by American police when a seventeen-year-old accused him of sexual assault. Fashanu committed suicide in May of that year: his suicide note claimed that the sex was consensual.[1]

Contents

Early life

Fashanu was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in England. 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 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

Justin 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 very spectacular goal against Liverpool. He subsequently became Britain's first £1m black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in August 1981 as a replacement for the outgoing 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 even 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?"'[2]

In August 1982 he was loaned to Southampton (scoring 3 goals in 9 appearances).[3] 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.[4]

In December that year was sold to local rivals Notts County for only £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 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. Many former colleagues spoke out in anger against him, stating that gays had no place in a team sport, and his brother John publicly disowned him. 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.

He began a trial with Newcastle United on 24 October 1991, making one first-team appearance as a sub against Peterborough United. However manager Ossie Ardiles refused to give him a permanent contract. During the match the Newcastle team dressing room was burgled, Fashanu lost cash and jewellery. He signed for Torquay United on 23 November 1991, apparently one of the few league clubs willing to give him a real chance. He hogged the limelight while at Plainmoor: in particular, his relationship with Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear was spread over the tabloids; 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 driver's licence.

In February 1993, with Torquay battling against a second successive relegation (from the new Division Three to the GM Vauxhall Conference, Fashanu applied for the vacant post of manager following Compton's departure, but was turned down in favour of Neil Warnock. Fashanu left to play for Airdrieonians soon after, but was unable to save them from suffering relegation from the Scottish Premier Division.

He had scored 15 goals in 41 games for the Gulls, a good record given that the 2 seasons he had been with the club had both involved relegation battles.

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) and returned to the United States to coach a boys team in Georgia. He later moved to Australia to play for Adelaide City and then to New Zealand to play for Miramar Rangers F.C. in 1997, before joining Atlanta Ruckus in the spring of the same year, but was suspended for the playoffs for failure to comply with the terms of his contract. 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

Gay Times (July 1991)

Fashanu agreed 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.[5] 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.[6] A week later, his brother John Fashanu agreed an exclusive with The Voice under the headline "John Fashanu: My Gay Brother is an outcast."[7]

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.[8] 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."[9]

The tabloid interest in Fashanu gathered pace when—in a characteristically unusual twist — he started dating former Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear, who had also recently sold stories to the press about her bisexuality; the relationship was short-lived.

Allegation and suicide

In March 1998, a seventeen-year-old claimed to police that he had been sexually assaulted by Fashanu after a night of drinking. The assault was alleged to have taken place in Fashanu's apartment in Ellicott, Maryland, United States. Fashanu was questioned about this by the police on 3 April, but he was not held in custody. It was widely reported in the press that 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. However, Fashanu had already returned to England.[1][10][11]

In the morning of 3 May 1998, he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London, after visiting Chariots Roman Spa, a local gay sauna.[11][12] In his suicide note, he stated: "I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family."[11] An inquest in London, held on 9 September 1998, heard that there was in fact no warrant out for Fashanu's arrest and that the American police had already dropped the investigation because of lack of evidence. The inquest recorded a verdict of suicide.[1][13]

Legacy

Fashanu was listed at number 99 in the Top 500 Lesbian and Gay Heroes in The Pink Paper,[14] 26 September 1997, issue 500, page 15.

A decade after his death, Fashanu is still the only professional footballer in the world to disclose that he was gay, according to the BBC.[15][16]

In March 2009 a football team, The Justin Fashanu All-stars, was christened at a special event in Brighton, supported by the FA.[17] 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.[18]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Dominic Kennedy (September 10, 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 after the Coroner for Poplar, East London, stated that the "fallen hero" had not been a wanted man at the time he hanged himself. The inquest heard evidence from a Scotland Yard detective that the Americans had made no request for Fashanu to be found or arrested. Howard County Police pointed out that this was because they did not know he was in England. Had they known, they would have begun extradition proceedings ... Justin Fashanu's suicide note, which was read out by the coroner, accused the boy of being a willing partner and a blackmailer. The youth told police that he woke in Fashanu's bed after a drinking party to find Fashanu performing a sex act on him. Fashanu was charged with second-degree sexual assault, and first-degree and second-degree assaults, which he denied. He faced a possible 20 years in jail. Homosexual acts are illegal in Maryland. An arrest warrant was issued by Howard County District Court on April 3. By then, Fashanu's flat was empty."  
  2. ^ Clough, Brian (1995). Clough: The Autobiography. Corgi Adult. p. 319 pages. ISBN 0552140031.  
  3. ^ Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (1992). The Alphabet of the Saints. ACL & Polar Publishing. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0951486233.  
  4. ^ Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (2003). In That Number – A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC. Hagiology. p. 510. ISBN 095344743X.  
  5. ^ The Sun (22 October 1990). £1m Football Star: I AM GAY. News Group Newspapers.  
  6. ^ Soccer star in gay romp. Herald Sun. 23 October 1990.  
  7. ^ The Voice (newspaper) (30 October 1990). John Fashanu: My Gay Brother is an outcast. GV Media Group.  
  8. ^ Marshall, John (July 1991). "Justin Fashanu: Soccer's enigmatic gay star". Gay Times (Millivres) (154).  
  9. ^ Karpf, Anne (September 18, 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)."  
  10. ^ "Fashanu 'may have fled US'". BBC News. 02 May 1998. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/86840.stm. "American police think the former British football star Justin Fashanu may have skipped the country after a sexual assault charge."  
  11. ^ a b c Powell, Vicky (June 1998). "Suicide note increases speculation over death of Justin Fashanu". Gay Times (Millivres) (237).  
  12. ^ "Chariots". Gaysauna.co.uk. http://www.gaysauna.co.uk. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  
  13. ^ "Suicide verdict on footballer Fashanu". BBC News. 09 September 1998. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/167715.stm.  
  14. ^ "About Us - Home - Pink Paper". Pink Paper<!. http://www.pinkpaper.com/AboutUs.aspx. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  
  15. ^ Gay footballers. "Inside Out - East Midlands - Gay footballers". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/content/articles/2008/04/21/east_midlands_gay_footballers_s13_w9_feature.shtml. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  
  16. ^ James, David (15 April 2007). "Will a gay footballer ever come out of the comfort zone?". The Observer. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/apr/15/sport.comment2. Retrieved 15 April 2007.  
  17. ^ "Team named after Justin Fashanu". BBC News. 7 March 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/7930310.stm. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  
  18. ^ "The Justin Campaign". The Justin Campaign. 2 May 2009. http://www.thejustincampaign.com/index.htm. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  

References

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