Chris Goreham: Fashanu’s perfect moment that summed up our imperfect football world
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Justin Fashanu was inducted into the Hall of Fame at The National Football Museum last week.
His story has been well told but it's only now that I realise quite how perfect his Goal of the Season against Liverpool actually was.
If an alien arrived on this planet and wanted to know why us Earthlings get so worked up about football they (or it) would only have to watch that strike to understand football for better and for worse. It's hard to think of a single moment that sums up the entire sport more accurately.
Firstly there's the goal itself. It's a strike of such utter beauty and perfection that it reduced one of the finest commentators ever to have held a microphone to just noises. The disbelief in Barry Davies' voice as he rises to the occasion with "Fashanu.. Oh…. Oh.. What a goal" says it all.
The goal was still being used on the opening titles of Match of the Day almost a decade and a half later. That's when I first became aware of it having made the mistake of not being born until two years after it happened.
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Earlier this month Norwich City supporters celebrated the 40th anniversary of Fashanu's wonder strike and it's only while watching it and talking about it again recently that the true artistry in that moment has hit home.
How typical of the Canaries is it to have enjoyed one of our most memorable moments in a game we actually lost?
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There was no disgrace in losing 5-3 to that great Liverpool team but ending up with nothing to show for such a brilliant goal tells its own story about the high and lows of supporting a team that has never been one of the biggest or most successful in the land.
It was only during the recent replaying of the goal that it was pointed out to me that it's worth listening to the Carrow Road rather than just focussing on the football.
As the ball finds its way to Fashanu via Greg Downs, Kevin Bond and John Ryan there are audible chants of "John Bond Out!" from the stands.
Football managers are always under pressure even when their team is building something for the ages.
That last observation was pointed out to me by Di Cunningham from the Proud Canaries group.
It's the existence of that organisation which underlines why Justin Fashanu is such an important figure in football. Even 40 years on he remains the only top level professional footballer in this country to come out as gay while still playing.
The banner that was raised by supporters at Carrow Road before the last home game against Liverpool was a classy and important gesture which gave the impression that football has moved on to such an extent that it has become a genuinely welcoming environment for everybody.
As far as most supporters are concerned that is true but football attracts so many people that it will always reflect the good and bad of society.
A look at social media and some of the comments that accompany replays of Fashanu's goal tell a depressing truth that racist and homophobic elements remain and are, while in the minority, vocal enough to prove that there is a need for the important work being done by people like Proud Canaries and to underline why much still needs to be done to prevent football, in this country as well as around the world, being an environment where people feel it's ok to allow their masks to slip and use sport as an outlet for prejudice.
Football can be as wonderful as it is frustrating and it can be a force for good as well as bad. When Justin Fashanu scored against Liverpool 40 years ago he managed to produce something with one majestic swing of his boot that has highlighted all of those things.