First openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu finally inducted into Hall of Fame in heartfelt ceremony

Justin Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame

Late footballer Justin Fashanu has been posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, in a moving ceremony.

The Norwich City player’s niece, Amal Fashanu, received the the award on his behalf at the museum in Manchester on Wednesday – the first time an openly gay sportsperson has been recognised as such.

Justin Fashanu came out as gay in 1990 – but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse and tabloid harassment.

The legacy of his treatment continues to hang over football. There are still no openly gay male players in the top tiers of the sport in the UK, and persistent reports suggest that major stars feel terrified to come out while their careers are active.

Homophobia is still an unfortunate reality in football, says player’s niece.

Amal Fashanu, who has become a high-profile campaigner against homophobia in her uncle’s memory, spoke movingly about the issue.

She said: “Today would have been Uncle Justin’s 59th birthday and what a way to celebrate it on his behalf. One of my favourite memories of Uncle Justin was his playful, cheeky character.

“He was so fun to be around and he would have been the life and soul of this event. Justin Fashanu was talented, smart, well-loved and charming. It warms my heart to witness his legacy being honoured more than 21 years after his untimely passing.”

Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu's niece, received the the award on his behalf

Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu’s niece, received the the award on his behalf

She added: “It’s unfortunate that we are still discussing discrimination in football in 2020 and it’s because of this harsh reality that we decided to create a platform in his name to tackle homophobia, racism and mental health within the game.

“[We] would like to thank the National Football Museum and all stakeholders involved who came together to honour my Uncle Justin.”

Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu's niece, received the the award on his behalf

Amal Fashanu, the Norwich City player’s niece, spoke about his legacy

The National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game. The museum will also honour Fashanu by launching a LGBT+ tour that will include details of his career.

Justin Fashanu ‘in his rightful place’ in Hall of Fame.

Di Cunningham, former chair of Pride in Football and founder of Proud Canaries, Norwich City’s LGBT+ fan club, said, “It’s wonderful that Justin now has his rightful place among the country’s footballing greats; a magical player in his heyday as a Canary, he’s also remembered for the dedication he showed to the Norfolk community where he was raised.

“And the courage, determination and integrity central to his coming out when there were few rights for the LGBT+ community and when homophobia was systemic in football were remarkable at the time – in retrospect, given that no other elite player has felt able to emulate Justin in the last 30 years – it’s even more stunning that he refused to hide who he was.”

Since Justin Fashanu, the only footballers to have come out as gay are former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers and former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger – both of whom only spoke out after retiring from English football.