“I was a monster” - brother of Justin Fashanu admits persecuting tragic Norwich City star over his sexuality
- Credit: Archant
The brother of tragic Norwich City footballer Justin Fashanu has admitted he was 'a monster' to him when he came out as gay.
Fashanu, who had been adopted by a Norfolk family before turning professional for Norwich City, took his own life in 1998 after being accused of sexual assault.
He was the first professional footballer to be openly gay, and the first to command a £1m transfer fee.
Today his brother John, who also rose through the ranks to be a successful footballer, has opened up about the guilt he feels being part of the ingrained culture which drove Justin to suicide.
'There is no question that the prejudice he encountered in his professional life as a top-flight footballer for club and country blighted his career and led eventually to his death,' John told the Mail on Sunday.
'It is a sad reflection of the continuing issues that surround professional football that, 20 years after Justin's death, there is not a single openly gay footballer in the Premier League.
'This is a situation that defies logic and underlines the fact that, 20 years after Justin's death, it is still not considered advisable to be openly gay.'
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John had initially refused to believe his brother when he came out in 1990, and eventually paid him £75,000 to stay quiet about it.
'When I confronted him and he said he was gay, I just though he was doing it for attention,' said the 56-year-old.
''Of course you're gay', I thought. 'Stop showing off. You're trying to take my glory. I'm the number one footballer, I've taken your position and you just want to take my platform'.
'So I said 'Here, I'm going to give you £75,000 on the condition you stop telling everybody you're gay because nobody cares.''
But John says he now realises what his brother was going through.
'He must have just wanted to bare his soul,' he said. 'But homophobia was the rage then. You couldn't even say the word homosexuality 30 years ago.'
Now, more than two decades since Justin's death, John and his daughter Amal are setting up the Justin Fashanu Foundation with a view to eliminating prejudice in sport.
'Thirty years ago the climate wasn't conducive for anybody to come out,' John added. 'But times have changed. The reaction has been overwhelming. It is almost like people are saying now: 'Please come out. Have a free spirit. Have a free will. Be who you are'.
'There are a lot of people we hope to inspire to be free to come out and nobody will persecute them as I did with my brother many years ago.'