Life of Canaries legend Justin Fashanu will be remembered in new book
He was a brilliant footballer who is fondly remembered by Norwich City fans and revered by campaigners who are trying to kick homophobia out of football. And now Justin Fashanu is to have his life immortalised in a book.
Justin, who scored 40 goals for City – including his famous strike against Liverpool in 1980 – in 103 appearances between 1979 and 1981 was the first ever professional footballer to disclose he was gay.
Britain’s first million pound black player had to contend with homophobia, prejudice and discrimination throughout his career. Justin, who had his hall of fame banner unveiled at Carrow Road in February just days before what would have been his 50th birthday, died in 1998 after taking his own life in a garage in Shoreditch, London.
But since his death Justin’s bravery has been heralded by campaigners who set up the Justin Campaign to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that exist around gay men in soccer. And now his life and his legacy are due to be made into a book by Nick Baker, a former broadcast journalist and writer who now works on factual TV shows in Canada, who wants to celebrate the former footballer’s bravery.
He said: “The reason I am writing the book is because I believe it is long overdue. Justin was not only Britain’s first million pound black footballer but also the first professional football player in the world to disclose he was gay. The decision to tell the world was incredibly brave, especially in an era that was predominantly homophobic.
“Today, more than 15 years later other professional sports people are finally following his lead, like the rugby player Gareth Thomas and cricketer Steven Davies, but it was Justin who took the initial stand. That should never be forgotten.”
But as well as looking at what Justin achieved on the pitch and in terms of highlighting issues surrounding gay people in sport, Mr Baker also wants to take a closer look at Justin Fashanu the man.
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He said: “Today, the legacy of Justin Fashanu lives on and has inspired the birth of organisations like The Justin Campaign which tackles homophobia in sport. But when it’s all said and done, what do we know about the man who started the revolution; Justin himself? What were his early years like? Who nurtured his talent? Away from the pitch, how did he cope with being a secretly gay professional footballer? Who were his real friends?”
Mr Baker said the book, to which Gareth Thomas has offered to write the foreword, will attempt to answer those questions – although he needs the help of others to do it.
He added: “I would really love to interview anyone who knew Justin in Norwich back then – old friends, teammates, coaching staff, acquaintances outside the club – anyone who knew him in some way.”
The book, which is being published by Scratching Shed Publishing, will be released next year.
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Are you researching a book about a Norwich hero? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email firstname.lastname@example.org