Justin Fashanu film is an uncomfortable watch - particularly when his brother John appears
PUBLISHED: 14:28 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:22 06 October 2017
If you want to remember him for that perfect goal against Liverpool in 1980, don’t watch Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story.
For this film takes a traumatic trip through the life of the former Norwich City striker, asking difficult questions and finding uncomfortable answers.
Abandoned by his father, then by his mother, he was brought up by foster parents in Shropham, where he and his brother John were the only black children around.
There followed a football career, goal of the season, £1m transfer to play for Brian Clough and...that’s enough for a lifetime, isn’t it?
No, and I can’t list all the other blips on the radar of his life, which ended in May 1998 when he took his own life in an East London garage.
The film does, though, using a balanced combination of fascinating footage from the early days in Norfolk, goal action for Norwich City, plus then and now interviews with those who knew him.
Glenn Hoddle pops up to tell us Justin’s aftershave smelt “fantastic”, while foster mum Betty Jackson’s revelations about taking on two “coloured boys” are shocking almost 40 years on: “I wasn’t sure about having coloured children. When I first saw them they were such bright, happy little souls and I loved their skin, the texture of their skin.”
Justin’s birth mother also contributes, trying to explain why she chose to send two of her four children to Barnardo’s. She doesn’t convince me, and I doubt she convinces herself.
The legacy was a damaged, complex son who was also set to struggle with confronting his own homosexuality at a time when the world - and in particular the football world - wouldn’t accept it.
And so followed a trip to Lagos to meet his father, a shorter journey to find Jesus, a knee operation in LA, coming out in The Sun for £70,000, revelations about affairs with MPs, the Julie Goodyear “romance”, and moving to Maryland to coach football. An allegation of sexual assault on a 17-year-old boy led to Justin running away and the soap opera life ending in the East London garage.
The film tells his fascinating story calmly, without favour, leaving me with a profound sense of sadness at a life unfulfilled.
But the most fascinating elements of all are the interviews with his brother, John, who was Fash the Bash for Wimbledon and a presenter of Gladiators on ITV in the 1990s.
Asked about Justin coming out, he said: “I wouldn’t want to get changed or be in the vicinity of him.”
He also admitted that he was at that point his “arch enemy”.
In what is a superb film about one troubled Fashanu, I was left wondering whether there needs to be a follow-up about another one.