Who was Justin Fashanu?
Justin Fashanu was a British football player, who was also the first footballer to come out openly as homosexual. Fashanu was born and raised in Hackney, London, England. He first gained attention after making headlines as a boxer. As a teenager, he was able to reach two national finals for his age group. He also made huge progress, in the youth as well as reserve football teams of Norwich City, for whom he played as a central striker. Throughout his career, he played over hundred matches for Norwich City Football Club, and scored 40 goals. While playing for Norwich, he was also chosen for the English national under-21 team. Sometime after he moved to US, he was charged of sexual assault in 1998, after being accused of assault by a seventeen-year-old boy. He committed suicide before he could be arrested, as he felt that due to his homosexuality, he wouldn’t receive a fair trial. He also stated that the sex was consensual. He was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2020.
Justin Fashanu gained popularity after he reached two national finals as a boxer, when he was a teenager. He soon also made progress in the football team of Norwich City, playing as central striker. He also won the BBC Goal of the Season award, after he scored an impressive goal against Liverpool. He appeared in a total of 103 senior games for the team, and scored 40 goals.
He joined Nottingham Forest in 1981, for a transfer fee of £ 1 million. However, his performance with the team was quite poor, and he endured verbal abuse from the club`s manager Brian Clough. For some time, he played for the Southampton FC, on loan. Later, he was transferred to the Notts County FC in 1982. The next year, he suffered an unfortunate knee injury and wasn’t able to play the same way again. He went to the US, for a surgery and began playing again, first with Los Angeles Heat. He went to Canada as well and played with the Edmonton Brickmen and the Hamilton Steelers.
In 1989, he made attempts to revive his career after returning to England, and joined Manchester City. Less than a month later, he moved to West Ham United. He played for multiple other British clubs, though for very short times.
In 1993, he began playing for the Trelleborg football club, but shortly after, he joined Heart of Midlothian, but he got his contract terminated, due to ‘unprofessional conduct’. Later, he moved to Atlanta Ruckus. However, they suspended him due to his failure to comply with the terms of his contract. In 1997, Fashanu joined Miramar Rangers in New Zealand.
After some time, he moved to Ellicott City, in Maryland, and began coaching the Maryland Mania, a professional team in the USL A-League`s second division. However, after some time, he announced his official retirement.
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Justin Fashanu was born on 19 February 1961 to a Nigerian barrister and a Guyanese nurse named Pearl. His parents split up when he was still a child, and along with his brother John, he grew up in a charity home that cared for children.
Justin Fashanu was the first footballer to come out openly as a homosexual.
In March 1998, a seventeen-year-old accused him of sexual assault in Fashanu`s apartment. Homosexual acts were illegal at the time in Maryland, and the youth also stated that it was non-consensual. The police charged him second-degree sexual assault, but he had already fled to England, when the police arrived at his apartment.
His body was found on 3 May 1998 in a deserted garage in Fairchild Place, London. He left a suicide note stating that the charges were false, and the sex was consensual. He added that he fled to England as he felt that due to his sexuality, he wouldn’t get a fair trial.
His remains were cremated and a ceremony was also held at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.