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Britain’s first and only openly gay professional footballer to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Josh Milton February 18, 2020
Justin Fashanu of Norwich City. (Allsport UK /Allsport/Getty Images)

Justin Fashanu of Norwich City. (Allsport UK /Allsport/Getty Images)

Justin Fashanu, Britain’s first and only openly gay professional footballer, is to be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum in Manchester, England, this week.

He will be recognised at a ceremony Wednesday at the museum in the city centre, Sky Sports reported today.

Fashanu’s niece Amal, who runs The Justin Fashanu Foundation, which works to raise awareness of homophobia in the sport, will receive the award on what would have been her uncle’s 59th birthday.

While some footballers have come out since retiring from professional football – including American Robbie Rogers and Germany’s Thomas Hitzlsperger – Justin Fashanu holds the distinction of being the only male footballer to be openly gay while still playing the sport.

Conversely, many high-profile female professional players – such as Lily Parr, Casey Stoney and Fara William – have all come out as lesbian. Many note that attitudes around women’s footballer are more tolerant than the men’s.

Footballer entering Hall of Fame is ‘pivotal moment’, says niece. 

“I guess for Justin this would be a great moment and I think it’s a pivotal moment when we are finally recognising who Justin Fashanu was, not only as the openly gay footballer, but also as a very talented footballer and the first million-pound black player in England,” she told Sky Sports.

“When I went up to the Football Museum in Manchester a few years ago, I was quite shocked to not see Justin there [in the Hall of Fame].

“Maybe that’s because I’m his niece and I just think he’s amazing, but as a footballer I would have expected him to be there.”

Since its launch in 2002, more than 100 male footballers are in the English Football Hall of Home. But while many welcomed the news, Amal felt the game is “slightly late” to recognise Fashanu.

Not all of Justin Fashanu’s family were supportive at the time of his coming out. (Mark Leech/Getty Images)

She said: “I have gay football friends who play right now who happen to be gay to their friends and family but just not to the rest of the world.

“It’s their option. I don’t blame them because I do know why, but it’s very sad – we’re in 2020 and I don’t understand why there hasn’t been a footballer yet to come out who is still currently playing, because nothing will change.

“I think it has got easier because we have moved on in life and in general.

I think everyone, in other industries, we’re very happy to accept is gay or who is whatever they choose to be, but I guess within football, because it is such a close-knit, dark archaic kind of vibe, it’s very difficult.

“I think today, if a footballer came out it would be definitely not even half as bad as Justin coming out, but I think it would still be hard, it would still be a challenge.

“But what’s harder, to live pretending to be someone else or to be yourself?”

Who was Justin Fashanu?

The former Norwich City and Nottingham Forest striker caused tremors in the football scene in 1990.

Decades have past since, and after dying by suicidal in 1998.

Justin Fashanu. (Allsport UK /Allsport/Getty Images)

He is mythologised by many as representing the gulf between the LGBT+ community and professional football.

Activists and club managers have jointly worked to stamp out homophobia in the game, but anti-gay chants from football fans are still rife.

Fashanu’s family were not all supportive, however, at the time of his coming out in a The Sun article.

His own brother, John, offered him £75,000 not to come out.

More: coming out, football, Justin Fashanu

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