LGBTQ+ fans group Proud Canaries are raising funds to pay for the sculpture which will be created by Taslim Martin; in 1990, former Norwich striker Fashanu became the first male professional to come out as gay while still playing; he took his own life in 1998, aged 37
Wednesday 7 December 2022 16:24, UK
A campaign has been launched to help raise £150,000 for a statue in tribute to Justin Fashanu.
In 1990, former Norwich striker Fashanu became the first male professional to come out as gay while still playing. He took his own life in 1998, aged 37.
LGBTQ+ fans group Proud Canaries are raising funds to pay for the sculpture which will be created by Taslim Martin and is set to depict Fashanu's raised finger celebration after scoring against Liverpool in February 1980.
"The idea has been kicking around for a few years, it was paused during the pandemic. But now people have really come together," Professor Andrew Reynolds from the Justin Fashanu statue campaign told Sky Sports News.
"What we are trying to do is raise £150,000 to install the statue of Justin, which means so much to so many people. We have a fabulous artist, one of the leading sculptors in Britain, Taslim Martin, who is going to be creating the statue for us.
"We are going to have a little community space, a little community garden around the statue for people to stop and even sit on their way to the ground.
"We've been blessed with a huge amount of public support for the campaign already."
The statue will be situated in a memorial garden on the banks of the River Wensum along the approach to Norwich's Carrow Road stadium.
Actor and Norwich fan Stephen Fry is supporting the campaign.
Fashanu was the first black footballer to command a £1m transfer fee with his move to Nottingham Forest in 1981. The striker played for a total of 22 clubs in England, North America, Scotland and New Zealand.
In May last year, Blackpool midfielder Jake Daniels became the first active professional player in Britain since Fashanu to come out as gay 32 years on.
"I think a lot of us would say he was a great footballer," added Reynolds. "But he is something more important than that.
"He was one of the few courageous black British footballers to break that barrier early on his career, he was the first £1m black footballer.
"He was also the first player to come out as gay. That was a moment in time that was unbroken for another 32 years, so he represents something more than just a very good footballer.
"He represents something about what we want the game to be and who is allowed to play the game."
World Cup hosts Qatar have come under criticism for its stance on LGBTQ+ rights, with homosexuality illegal in the Gulf state and punishable by up to three years in prison.
Reynolds says it is "no accident" that the campaign has been launched this week with the tournament in full flow ahead of the quarter-final ties this weekend.
"Qatar has allowed us to shine a focus on this question - on who is allowed to watch, who is allowed to play and who do we encourage to play this game that we love," he added.
"Qatar has allowed us to think about the persistent exclusion of queer, gay, bisexual players - men and women - across the country and across the world.
"Our hope is that over this nine-month campaign of producing the statue and raising money for the statue we don't drop the ball on that important controversy about what Qatar has said about who can play.
"We want to continue this conversation because we are still without an out gay or bisexual player in the Premier League or almost every team in the 92 teams in the English leagues."