‘Justin was a pioneer’: City icon Fashanu inducted into football hall of fame
PUBLISHED: 20:26 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 20:26 19 February 2020
Norwich City icon Justin Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame today (Wednesday, February 19), on what would have been his 59th birthday.
The former Canaries striker was England's first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing, back in 1990. He took his own life in 1998.
His niece Amal Fashanu, who campaigns against homophobia in sport and is a co-founder of The Justin Fashanu Foundation, received the award on his behalf at the museum in Manchester during LGBT History Month.
After making his City debut against West Bromwich Albion in January 1979, he scored 40 goals in 103 appearances for the club over three years.
Fashanu was the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee with his move from Norwich to Nottingham Forest in 1981, but sadly could not replicate the same success elsewhere as he had enjoyed at Carrow Road.
Amal Fashanu said: "Today would have been Uncle Justin's 59th birthday and what a way to celebrate it on his behalf.
"One of my favourite memories of Uncle Justin was his playful, cheeky character. He was so fun to be around and he would have been the life and soul of this event.
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"Justin Fashanu was talented, smart, well-loved and charming. It warms my heart to witness his legacy being honoured more than 21 years after his untimely passing.
"It's unfortunate that we are still discussing discrimination in football in 2020 and it's because of this harsh reality that we decided to create a platform in his name to tackle homophobia, racism and mental health within the game.
"The Justin Fashanu Foundation would like to thank the National Football Museum and all stakeholders involved who came together to honour my Uncle Justin."
Fashanu's induction coincided with the launch of the National Football Museum's LGBT+ Tour. The tour features objects from the museum's collection which tell the story of LGBT+ history within the context of football.
National Football Museum chief executive Tim Desmond said: "We're delighted to present this award to Amal Fashanu on behalf of Justin and the Justin Fashanu Foundation.
"The National Football Museum Hall of Fame aims to recognise a wide diversity of individuals who've made an outstanding contribution to the game. Justin was a pioneer on many levels and with this award we acknowledge not only Justin's legacy but also the importance of the LGBT+ community within football."
Di Cunningham, former chair of Pride in Football and founder of Proud Canaries, Norwich City's LGBT+ fan club, said, "It's wonderful that Justin now has his rightful place among the country's footballing greats; a magical player in his heyday as a Canary, he's also remembered for the dedication he showed to the Norfolk community where he was raised.
"And the courage, determination and integrity central to his coming out when there were few rights for the LGBT+ community and when homophobia was systemic in football were remarkable at the time - in retrospect, given that no other elite player has felt able to emulate Justin in the last 30 years - it's even more stunning that he refused to hide who he was."