New film shines spotlight on the tragic life of former Canaries star

Justin Fashanu and Phil Hoadley

Justin Fashanu and Phil Hoadley - Credit: Archant

The extraordinary and tragic life of former Canaries star Justin Fashanu is the subject of a new film released today.

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story.
Image: supplied by DawBell

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story. Image: supplied by DawBell - Credit: supplied by DawBell

Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story is described as telling the tale of the former Norwich City Football Club players's amazing talent that withered and died against a backdrop of bullying and bigotry in the beautiful game.

The star - brought up by foster parents in Shropham, near Attleborough, with his football-playing brother John - became Britain's first £1m black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1981 and he was the first player to come out as gay in an interview with The Sun in 1990.

But there was a subsequent backlash in a climate of prejudice, and he became a target of crowd abuse and struggled to get a full-time contract.

On May 2, 1998 he took his own life - aged just 37 - at a block of garages in Shoreditch, London.

Justin Fashanu, NCFC. Photo: Archant Library

Justin Fashanu, NCFC. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library


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More than 25 years on he remains the highest profile footballer to come out as gay, and Forbidden Games is said to shine a new light on his complex life. The film, which was previewed at Toronto's Hot Docs festival, was produced and directed by Adam Darke and Jon Carey.

Mr Darke, from Darke Films, said: 'This film has been two years in the making and has been one of the most challenging stories to tell. Justin was an incredibly complex character. His abandonment as a child had a profound effect on him and he was constantly chasing love, acceptance and validation. His search for an identity led him down increasingly dangerous paths and ultimately to his demise.'

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Mr Carey, from Black Sun Media, added: 'We aspired to make something that not only told the tale of Justin's tragic life but that would make viewers reflect on society's part in his story. It was interesting to me to see how far we've come in so many ways but not moved forward at all in others. Justin was way ahead of his time and he perhaps would have had an easier ride by the media if he was born just 20 years later. Despite the bravery and acceptance of other men and women in other sports, the question still remains as to whether a footballer can come out in Britain without being pilloried and humiliated by the general public.'

Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story - a co-production by Fulwell 73, Darke Films and Black Sun Media - has been released on today on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story.
Image: supplied by DawBell

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story. Image: supplied by DawBell - Credit: supplied by DawBell

Growing up in Norfolk and playing for Norwich City

Justin Fashanu was born to a Nigerian barrister and a Guyanese nurse.

His parents split up when he was young, and together with his brother John he was sent to a Barnardo's home and then fostered by Alf and Betty Jackson in Shropham, near Attleborough.

Steve Walford in action against former Norwich player Justin Fashanu. 13/09/1982
Photo: EDP pics

Steve Walford in action against former Norwich player Justin Fashanu. 13/09/1982 Photo: EDP pics - Credit: EDP / Archant � 2004

He began his football career as an apprentice with Norwich City, turning professional in 1978 and making his league debut on January 13, 1979, against West Bromwich Albion. In 1980 he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a spectacular goal against Liverpool. Norwich eventually lost 5-3, but the goal overshadowed the result and is still remembered by Norwich City fans as one of the greatest goals of all time. In total he scored 40 goals for the Canaries between 1979 and 1981. While at the club he was also capped six times for England at under-21 level.

He became Britain's first £1m black footballer when he transferred to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1981.

The first high profile footballer to come out as gay

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story.
Image: supplied by DawBell

A still from the film Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story. Image: supplied by DawBell - Credit: supplied by DawBell

Justin Fashanu became the first footballer to come out as gay in an interview in The Sun in 1990.

But there was a subsequent backlash in a climate of prejudice, and he became a target of crowd abuse and struggled to get a full-time contract.

The footballer - whose career on the pitch ended in 1997 - took his own life on May 2, 1998 in a garage in Shoreditch, London.

He was just 37-years-old.

Justin Fashanu playing for Norwich City Football Club against Liverpool on 9th February 1980, the ga

Justin Fashanu playing for Norwich City Football Club against Liverpool on 9th February 1980, the game where he scored his 'goal of the season'. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

He has since become a symbol of the continuing problems faced by gay men and women in sport, and his bravery was heralded by campaigners who set up The Justin Campaign to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that exist around gay men in football.

Former broadcast journalist Nick Baker has also written a book called Forbidden Forward about Justin Fashanu's life.

For more information about the Justin Campaign, visit www.thejustincampaign.com

Justin Fashanu, NCFC. Photo: Archant Library

Justin Fashanu, NCFC. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

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