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Sunday, 3 May, 1998, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Fashanu: a rising star who faded too soon
Justin in Norwich City strip
Promising days: Justin Fashanu started his career at Norwich City
Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to openly "come out" and admit he was gay.

His courage drew many admirers among the wider audience, but some observers said it was less appreciated in parts of the soccer world.

His once-promising career had already nose-dived by the time of his confession eight years ago. But an embittered Fashanu blamed what he saw as a deep-seated prejudice in the English game for his demise.

Shock to soccer world

Nevertheless, his death has shocked the footballing world.

John Fashanu
Justin's brother John Fashanu
Ronnie Brooks, the former Norwich City talent scout who first spotted Justin and his brother John, said he was "completely devastated" at the news.

"He had a lot of ability, like John [who played for Wimbledon and England]," said Mr Brooks.

"But I think it's probably fair to say that he was a more talented player than John and people would have expected him to have a better career and probably go on to play for England."

Young talent

Mick Dennis, the executive sports editor of the London Evening Standard, was one of the first journalists to notice Fashanu's young talent.

"He was a very, very up-front, out-going, joking sort of person," said Mr Dennis.

Justin in early days
The young Justin Fashanu was "up-front, out-going, joking"
"At the time, when he was 17, he was very, very cock-sure of himself."

Mr Dennis said Fashanu's soccer career started to take a down-turn at the same time as his "personal and sexual life was coming into focus."

He added: "I think what we should be wondering about today is why it is in professional football you are not allowed to be homosexual."

Justin Fashanu was brought up by foster parents and the children's charity Barnardos. At 14 he was signed to Norwich City and by his late teens he had risen to the first team.

Justin Fashanu talks about his sexuality on a TV show
Justin Fashanu talked about his sexuality on TV
In the early 1980s, he was a rising star at Norwich City. He sealed his reputation with a memorable goal against Liverpool, during a landmark 5-2 victory over the Merseyside club.

While at Norwich he also made it to the England B team.

He hit the headlines in 1981 when he became the first black player to command a 1m transfer fee - joining Nottingham Forest.

Six-year absence

But, in retrospect, the move signalled an early end to his career. Fashanu fell out with the Forest manager, Brian Clough, and found himself out of the first team.

His problems were compounded by a serious knee injury which kept him out of the game for six years in the 1980s.

Justin Fashanu in England strip
Justin Fashanu made it to the England B team
Attempts to salvage his career with spells at Manchester City, West Ham, Leyton Orient and Newcastle, all failed.

By the turn of the decade he was hitting Fleet Street's front pages more often than the back, following his decision to come out as a homosexual.

Speaking on television in 1992 he said: "People need to know the truth. It's okay to allow yourself to express your sexuality."

BBC News
Mark Dennis talks to BBC News 24: "He was very, very up-front" (2'19")
See also:

02 May 98 | Americas
Fashanu 'may have fled US'
03 May 98 | UK
Justin Fashanu found dead
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