In the end he moved via Scotland to teams in New Zealand and Canada before settling in the States.In the Nineties, as his playing career wound down, people were most often reminded of Justin Fashanu in those brief and embarrassing moments when he flirted with the world of tabloid journalism: he "came out" in the Sun in 1990 and, having been paid more than pounds 20,000 for the story, became hungry for further exposure (in 1994 his agent in Scotland contacted police offering Fashanu's insights into the suspicious death of Stephen Milligan MP; Fashanu was exposed when he asked for pounds 300,000 from a tabloid for his story, and later conceded that his allegations of sexual involvement with Milligan and other Tory MPs was pure fabrication). There, anonymity had replaced the acclaim of earlier years; no one remembered the goals he scored for Norwich in the late Seventies and early Eighties; or his pioneering example as Britain's first openly gay footballer; or his appearance on League pitches at a time when black players such as Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson and John Barnes were still the exception rather than the rule.Fashanu's career was an itinerant one, even by the standards of an itinerant profession. Some of Justin's fellow Christians from America, who claimed to have been praying with him only recently, were also present. The Tarmac was thronged with smart and vintage cars, the sunglasses and suits making the scene feel like something lifted from one of the Godfather films.The irony was that this coming together and closing of ranks was a far cry from Fashanu's lonely isolation across the Atlantic, where he had lived and worked since 1994. Boxer Frank Bruno was there, as was Garth Crooks, another trail-blazing black footballer from the Eighties. So too was Fashanu's natural mother, Pearl, a nurse of Guyanese extraction who gave him and John up to the care of the Barnardo's children's charity in the mid-Sixties, when their father returned to Nigeria. There were half a dozen wreaths and other floral tributes lying at the end of the lawn behind the North Chapel of the London City Cemetery, on the edge of Epping Forest.
One bunch of flowers came from Ronnie Brooks, the former Norwich City talent scout who had spotted early promise in the precocious striker Justin Fashanu. Brooks was one of the many older men who were to serve as mentor throughout Fashanu's turbulent career; his card read "peace be thine, 'my son'."It was an eclectic gathering of mourners in the heat of 9 May, all of them sharing the same numbing sadness at his sudden suicide. Placed under a plastic sign reading "the late Justin Sonny Fashanu", the note was signed from his brother John, John's wife Melissa, and their children Akim, Amir and Amal. At the time of his death, he was wanted in America on charges of sexual assault - charges that now will never be heard. And there are other questions still to be answered about this talented, tragic figure "The only thing for sure is that you're free at last." THE SMALL CARD attached to a simple wreath was written in Biro. His was a life full of contradictions: the gay man in a macho game, the committed Christian who sold stories about his sex-life to the tabloids, the pioneering black sports star who had no interest in Nelson Mandela and `this kind of baloney'. "This is a good record," I'll say, down the boozer with my still-hip mate, Dave "It's Michael Bolton," he'll sneer.
"From his tribute album to the great operas of the world."Part of my problem is that, being better off than my twentysomething self, I don't need to do all that research (reading reviews, watching Top Of The Pops) which ensures that my record money is not wasted. So there's no thrill in buying a record anymore; it's not the result of hard labour.Above all, though, what's gone for me from pop music is the sex connection. I accept that I will never be a pop star-sex symbol; I no longer look at pop stars and think, yeah, with a bit of tweaking I could look sexy in that way; I have no immediate plans to pick up sexy women by dancing sexily in nightclubs. And without the sex, what are you left with here? Just tunes and words.Not enough.. Britain's first openly gay footballer, Justin Fashanu hanged himself earlier this month in a garage in east London.