Only two months late; but I finally got round to watching the BBC documentary ‘Britain’s Gay Footballers’ which focussed on the case of Justin Fashanu.
He was the first £1 million pound black footballer when he left Norwich for Nottingham Forest, and considered one of the stars of the future at the time.
The move didn’t work out as planned, and in 1990 he shocked the world by coming out as the first openly gay footballer. The decision was met with disdain by his peers and fans of the game, and after a series of high profile press scandals he committed suicide in 1998.
The documentary is from the point of view of his niece Amal Fashanu, who sets about trying to find out why there are no openly gay footballers, in what is considered a more gay-friendly society.
Despite her journey’s to talk to footballers from teams such as Milwall and QPR; you really get the feeling that society may have moved on but football for all its glitz and glamour is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to this particular subject.
The FA did comment to say they are putting together a programme to stamp out all discrimination, whether it be homophobic or any other, but the general consensus seems just the same as 20 years ago.
At the time of the original showing John Fashanu, the older brother of Justin, was vilified for his comments regarding the whole situation. John, at the time distanced himself from Justin, and commented to say,
“Mistakes were made, no more tears; we’ve cried two decades for him.”
Although his role in Justin’s suicide seems to be pivotal, he does make a valid point that his brother didn’t seem to care about the stigma of his sexuality at the time, and the impact it would have on the footballing world. On the flipside you can say he was just being honest; but the fact that a lot of the scandals were leaked by Justin himself probably didn’t help his situation.
It seems he was scared and alone when he decided to end his life, and his response was to act out against a world that didn’t seem to understand him.
The most frustrating part of the whole documentary is the lack of answers and closure for Amal herself. We do not find out why there are no openly gay footballers, we are left with a lot of what ifs, and could be’s.
Also Amal seems to come out of the saga more damaged than ever before when she learns of her father’s comments at the time; and his deep anger about the situation is clearly evident. If John’s comments and actions were different, would they have saved Justin’s life? We will never know, which kind of tells us all we need to know on the subject area for now.