The niece of gay footballer Justin Fashanu has spoken about the moment she was told her uncle had died.
Justin Fashanu, Britain’s only footballer to come out and continue playing, killed himself in 1998.
In today’s Metro newspaper, Amal spoke about the moment she was told her uncle had died.
“I was actually waiting for him to take me on a visit to Elton John’s studio when we found out. Me and my mum were the last people to see Justin as we’d spent the previous evening together. I remember him well and we’d do a lot of things together. He was like a family hero to me.”
The 23-year-old fashion designer said: “It could have been avoided. It’s not like he had a terminal illness – he decided to commit suicide. I was very angry because I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know about Justin being gay because my parents shielded me from it. I remember being at the funeral and there were paparazzi at the door trying to get in.”
Amal explained how she got involved with the Justin Campaign – which campaigns against homophobia in football.
“I tried to find out as much as I could. I felt people weren’t fair to him when he came out as gay and I read things my dad had said about him – things such as how he wouldn’t want to shower in the same changing rooms. My parents were a bit reluctant to talk about him.
“Then I and found out there was a man in Brighton who’d set up the Justin Campaign, which is about homophobia in football, and I got involved in that. From there, I was interviewed for a TV programme, which led to the documentary I did about Justin and gay footballers.”
Amal spoke of the continuous impact of her uncle’s death in relation to her father, she said: “I have a lot of respect for my dad and didn’t want to upset him. I had never seen my dad cry until we spoke about Justin for the programme”.
John Fashanu has made disparaging remarks about his brother – even in death.
He said he didn’t believe Justin was gay in an interview with Talksport broadcast last year.
“I don’t believe he was gay. Number two, I don’t believe he had affairs with MPs and number three I don’t believe he was having an affair with one of the young ladies from Coronation Street – it was just nonsense. Showbiz.
“If you had a brother who came out and said, ‘Hey listen, I’m gay’ we’d welcome you, say ‘No problem’ but if you had someone who came out and said, ‘I’m a spaceman’ when you’re not a spaceman then that’s a bit silly.”
He added: “My daughter was very close to her uncle and it has taken a long time for her to understand that Justin wasn’t really gay, he just wanted attention.”