The strange case of Justin and John Fashanu merits a little examination and comment.
When Justin took his life in May 1998 in a lock-up garage in Shoreditch, London, a primary contributory factor lay in his fear of prosecution by the US Authorities following a homosexual encounter with a minor in Maryland earlier that year. Justin, the older of the two brothers, was clearly not a stranger to controversy and inappropriate behaviour, having been convicted of driving offences and of falsifying stories about himself and Cabinet Ministers in an effort to earn cheap money from the tabloid press.
He was also not a stranger to confronting the media and challenging public attitudes, particularly when dealing with his own sexuality. Openly gay, his tendency to frequent homosexual night clubs in Nottingham after his move from Norwich was believed to be the cause of deep-rooted friction with Brian Clough and a reason why (having scored 35 games in 90 games for Norwich) he only played 32 times for Forest (scoring a meagre 3 goals) and began his downward spiral in football (and maybe life) when he left the City Ground.
We then look at his brother, John, and start by examining his current website which outlines him as a sportsman, TV personality, ambassador, businessman and basically all-round cool guy. We all remember him as the male side-kick to Ulrika Johnson on Gladiator - the programme which brought the term “macho” to a new level. Not many gays appeared on Gladiator over the years, I bet.
Add to this image John’s role as a member of the Crazy Gang at Wimbledon in the late seventies and early eighties and his four years learning his trade at Oswald Mosley’s Millwall in the East End of London. No doubt he had to “compensate for his colour” down at the Den by showing other traits familiar and popular with the homophobic, racist and violent fans whom they call supporters. Poor Gary Mabbutt was to learn about these traits at a fixture at the Lane in 1994 when Fashanu’s elbow very nearly cost him his life in one of the most cynical and horrific challenges the Premiership has ever seen.
Justin remains the only footballer in the history of the Premiership to “come out” - a fact that says more about the homophobic nature of the game than the laws of mathematical probability. Our beautiful game remains littered with a class of supporter, and player, whose singular focus is on conformity to their norm, and mindless hatred towards anyone who fails to meet their standards. Think of the dangerous Neil Lennon twins in front of us at Goodison. Is it any wonder that other gay footballers have not had the courage to confirm their sexuality when so much in football still centres around the behaviour and preferences of the mindless?
Going back to John’s website, you really are left scratching your head. How can a man who publicly disowned his brother when he learnt he was gay, describe himself as “playing a keen role in a raft of charities focusing on the needs of underprivileged children. In the past he has held the post of UNICEF Ambassador for Africa, as well as working with Barnardo’s, Yanga (Street Children Care International), CenterPoint, and Jubilee Action (Against Child Prostitution) to name but a few.” John then goes on to advise us that “He soon found that he was personally involved in over thirty five individual charitable organisations.”
Something just doesn’t add up, and while I’m quite prepared to give John Fashanu the benefit of the doubt and credit him for the good work he does, I just wish I hadn’t got the lingering thought of that dark garage in Shoreditch in my mind as I read his list of achievements. Charity is supposed to begin at home.
I need to finish on a football note - do you know what, (and here’s the beauty of it all) - in his more successful career John Fashanu never came anywhere near to displaying the skills his older brother did – all John’s goals were built on physical power and aggression where he buried the ball, defender and keeper in the net from three yards - no doubt after a precisely punted free-kick or corner. Ireland in the Nineties.
So go on John, have a look at the BBC Goal of the Season from 1980 and marvel at the skills your deceased brother had. Don’t you wish you had half the skills?