JUSTINUS FASHANU: The Man and what he stood for
Born in Hackney, London, he was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in the United Kingdom and a Guyanese nurse named Pearl. He started his football career with Norwich City where he made his professional debut in 1978. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a spectacular goal against Liverpool. In three years with Norwich, he scored 40 goals in 103 games. In August 1981 he became Britain’s first £1million black footballer, when he signed for Nottingham Forest. The move was unsuccessful as he managed to score 3 goals in 32 league games.
In December 1982, he was sold to Notts County for £150,000. He scored 20 times in 64 games for the Magpies, although he was unable to prevent them suffering back-to-back relegations, before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion in June 1985.
The former England U-21 forward was known by his early clubs to be gay, and came out to the press later in his career, becoming the first professional footballer to come out openly as gay. After moving to the United States, in 1998 he was questioned by police when a seventeen-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault. He was charged, and an arrest warrant for him was issued in Howard County, Maryland on 3 April 1998.
Justinus Soni Fashanu passed away on this day in 1998(aged 37). On the morning of 3 May 1998, he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Fairchild Place, Shoreditch, London, after visiting Chariots Roman Spa, a local gay sauna. In his suicide note, he denied the charges, stating that the sex was consensual, and that he had fled to England because he felt he could not get a fair trial because of his homosexuality. He was the elder brother to former AFC Wimbledon striker John Fashanu who also played for Norwich City and the England national team.