Justin Fashanu’s niece is providing support to seven secretly gay footballers who aren’t ready to come out publicly
The Professional Footballers’ Association is meeting with an anti-homophobia campaigner to discuss the best way to support seven secretly gay football players.
Football bosses are planning to meet with activist Amal Fashanu, who is the niece of Justin Fashanu, the first and only openly gay British footballer to play for a major league.
Fashanu publicly came out as gay in 1990 and tragically died by suicide in 1998 after enduring years of homophobia and harassment from tabloid newspapers.
Amal told The Sun: “For a long time the game has been ignoring the issue, but at long last this appears to be changing. The PFA has contacted me and made it clear they want to help address the issue.
“They are worried about any player who is suffering in silence. They want to do all they can to make sure any player who wants to make that step is supported.”
Amal had previously suggested that five famous footballers are gay and in the closet, but it now seems that at least seven could be preparing to come out.
She revealed that two players she’s supporting are Premier League stars who don’t feel able to go public, fearing a backlash from fans.
“No one wants to be the first,” she said previously. “In their minds these guys are trapped, ashamed. They think society won’t accept it so instead they live their lives in secret.
“It’s sad that this has to happen. But they would be a trailblazer.”
Fashanu’s treatment after coming out as gay, and his subsequent suicide, have hung over the sport in the UK and resulted in a chilling effect for gay footballers.
Earlier this year, Fashanu was finally inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, with his niece Amal collecting the award on his behalf.
Speaking at the event, she said of her uncle: “He was so fun to be around and he would have been the life and soul of this event.
“Justin Fashanu was talented, smart, well-loved and charming. It warms my heart to witness his legacy being honoured more than 21 years after his untimely passing.”
More needs to be done to tackle homophobia in football and support gay players.
Homophobia remains a pervasive problem in football despite many clubs’ attempts to discourage it at matches.
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Over the year several MPs have called for the government to broaden the law surrounding football offences in order to crack down on homophobia.
These calls were recently joined by the former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, who is gay.
He said there was “a blatantly obvious black hole in the law within football” and urged Boris Johnson and his government to address the issue once and for all.