Trawling through film archives for a BBC documentary she was making about gay footballers, Amal Fashanu, John Fashanu’s daughter discovered the ‘dark secret’ that overshadowed her family for more than two decades.
She learned that her uncle, Justin Fashanu – Britain’s first £1 million black player and the only professional footballer to ‘come out’ as homosexual – was devastated by the rejection of his own family.
Amal, 23-year-old daughter of Justin’s brother, the former Wimbledon player-turned-TV presenter John Fashanu, has always believed football failed her uncle and that homophobia contributed to the fragile mental state that led him to take his life. But she now also believes he was pushed over the edge by rejection by the people he loved the most. In the programme, Britain’s Gay Footballers, Amal tries to discover why no other player has ‘come out’ like Justin. She discovered the full extent of her uncle’s vilification after he revealed his sexuality in 1990 at 29. His once stellar career was dogged by sex scandals and he hanged himself eight years later, after being accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in America. But it was Justin’s schism with John that appears to have left the deepest cut. John condemned him in a TV interview when Justin came out, saying he would have to ‘suffer the consequences’ for going public and adding he would ‘not want to play or even get changed’ with him.