Giant mural on Norwich pub honours Justin Fashanu, England's first openly gay footballer

England's first openly gay footballer, Justin Fashanu, has been honoured with a mural on a Norwich City supporters' pub. Credit: ITV News Anglia
A mural honour England's first openly gay footballer has been revealed on the side of a Norwich pub. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A giant mural of England's first openly gay footballer has been unveiled on the side of a pub.

Justin Fashanu remains the only male professional player to confirm he was homosexual - amid fears he would be "outed" by a national newspaper in 1990 - and was inducted into the footballing Hall of Fame in 2020.

But despite now being seen as an inspiration in the fight against homophobia and discrimination in sport, the proud Canary took his own life in 1998 - writing in his suicide note that being gay and a personality was "so hard".

The former Norwich City striker, who became the UK's first black £1m player when he was sold to Nottingham Forest, continues to be seen as a legend at the Norfolk Championship club.

His "wonder strike" against Liverpool at Carrow Road in 1980 went on to win Match of the Day's goal of the season in 1980.

And now his face has taken pride of place on the side of a Canaries supporters pub.

A mural of former Norwich City player Justin Fashanu, England's first openly gay footballer, has appeared on the Fat Cat and Canary. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Replacing an image of former Norwich boss Daniel Farke, the 12ft image of Fashanu at the Fat Cat and Canary on Thorpe Road depicts him in a 1970s yellow and green shirt.

Farke was the Canaries' head coach from 2017 to 2021 but after being unveiled as rival Championship side Leeds United's new manager, the pub decided a change was needed.

Fat Cat landlord Christian Hodgkinson said Fashanu was an easy choice for the mural, which was painted by street artist Gnasher.

"I think Justin means quite a lot to a lot of people. Great player, scored an amazing goal, the first £1m black player, came out as gay," he said.

"I think there are a lot of things that Justin did for football and for people."

Justin Fashanu became a club legend for Norwich City following his wonder goal against Liverpool in 1980. Credit: Norwich City Football Club

However, the artwork has been met with some criticism.

Social media posts have questioned the decision to honour Fashanu, who was charged with the sexual assault of a 17-year-old boy in the US just before his death in 1998.

But fans at the Fat Cat said the footballer, who grew up in foster care in Norfolk with brother John, was a "Norwich legend" who deserved to be celebrated.

Andrew Lawn, 37, who runs the Along Came Norwich fansite, said: "You're always going to have mutterings on social media - not everyone is going to like it - and I think innocent until proven guilty. He wasn't convicted of anything at all and he is an icon in Norwich City's football history.

"I can't think of many people I would rather see honour with a mural [from] Norwich City."

Terri Westgate, from the Proud Canaries supporters group, added: "The 1980s was a very different time. There was a lot of homophobia in the press and media and he was hounded for the fact that he came out as being gay.

"I think nowadays if he'd come out he would have had a very different story. He was a trailblazer."

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