Every time i remember Justin Fashanu,it always made me sad.As a schoolboy in Nigeria,we were all proud of him especially after the Justin Fashanu goal against Liverpool.I was not a fan of Norwich City,but i would always watch their games cos of Justin.He was also on my bedroom wall,courtesy of posters from the football magazines,Shoot and Match.Like everyone else,i was shocked when Justin came out as gay.Shocked because he was the ultimate macho man.He was a boxer,tall strong and very physical on the pitch.It was not your stereo typed idea of what a gay man was back then.
What made the Justin Fashanu story even more painful for me was that when he eventually died,he took his own life in a garage 10 minutes away from my house in Shoreditch,For many years,every time i drove past the garage,i thought of Justin.I hope he is at peace now.A very sad way indeed for a troubled soul to have ended his short life.
Justin Fashanu shot himself into the limelight with a stunning goal against Liverpool in 1980, Nottingham Forest subsequently shelled out a record £1million for him but he failed to hit the heights expected.
John Fashanu gave brother Justin £75,000 not come come out as gay.
In a newspaper interview in 1990, he claimed to have had an affair with a married Tory MP he met in a gay bar. John, 53, said:
“I’ll never forget when Justin first told me. He called me in the evening time and said to me: ‘I’m gay’. Then he said to me: ‘I’m planning to go to a newspaper’. I said to him: ‘Oh heavens forbid... oh my God. We don’t need that. You’re mad’. He promised when I gave him the money he would not go out and say that. Two days later... bang... headlines in a newspaper. I looked like a sucker. For me and my family it was like Hiroshima or Nagasaki on our lives. It knocked us dead, it was a total shock.
“People might not like it, but I was trying to protect my family. You’ve got to remember the public’s perception of homosexuality at that time was that it was an abomination . It was taboo. Street boys were beating up gays in nightclubs. I give him credit for having the courage to come out and say it. But it caused a lot of confusion and animosity towards him, me, and my family.
“During matches, 30, 40, sometimes 45,000 supporters sang at me: ‘You’re big... you’re black... your a*** is up for grabs... Fashanu... Fashanu’. As a result of him saying what he said, my mother died because of the stress. She actually died a year later on the day of his birthday.
"She was already old, very fragile and suffering cancer. Then to be told her second eldest son was a homosexual was too much.”
John Fashanu condemned Justin, then at Leyton Orient, soon after he came out and infamously said he would “not want to play or even get changed” in the same dressing room.
But last week John said:
“I’ve never spoken about these things before because I was stamped a homophobe. But things have changed and I make it very clear: I was wrong. It was ignorance on my behalf. I didn’t understand him. I was trying to protect my family and I was worried about the effect on my career. In the process I lost my brother and I am very sad about that.
“He committed suicide because he was so distraught the world would not accept a black man who was homosexual. I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t accept it and so whatever relationship we had before was killed .
“Previous to that, we had been very close, but it just shattered everything. I didn’t speak to him again. There’s a lot of sadness and regrets.”
Two premier league stars including an England international are about to come out as gay and Fashanu says :
“If these young men feel it is the right time to come out and announce they are homosexual, please don’t anybody victimise them. Please be careful with words, don’t let it lead to the destruction of two men in their prime. I didn’t have that wisdom 20 years ago and it led to the destruction of my late brother Justin.
“We must accept them. I beg everybody not to make the same mistakes I made. Give them as much understanding as possible.”
John is a practising christian and he believes his brother was not actually gay, he credits his TV presenter daughter, Amal, 27 for helping him change his attitude.
“My daughter Amal is a very strong activist for gay rights,” said John, who now lives in Nigeria, where homosexuality is still illegal. She has helped me a lot to understand a lot more about another way of life, which homosexuality is. I love her and I am very proud of the way she speaks about her uncle.”
John is still struggling with the fact that his brother was gay.But its time he accepts Justin was gay,it is what it is,and no amount of denial can change that.Justin went through a lot after revealing he was gay,no gay man wants to lie he is gay just for fun cos we know society does not make it easy for them.Things are better now but there are still lots of obstacles and prejudice involved.