11 July 2020

Amal Fashanu says ‘this is an important day’ as Premier League footballer reveals he is gay in an open letter

Amal Fashanu says today ‘is a very important day’ after an un-named Premier League footballer has revealed he is gay in an open letter.

The activist is the niece of Justin Fashanu, the first football player to come out as gay while still playing, which led her to set up the Justin Fashanu Foundation, not only to carry on her uncle's legacy but to create an environment in football that is inclusive and accepting.

Her foundation has been supporting the player at the centre of today’s revelation.

Speaking exclusively to NewsChain, Fashanu explained that the Foundation received a letter ‘and it was just a back and forth to try and get it how the footballer wanted it….  we helped support and we gave advice and guidance’.

In the player’s letter, which has been seen by The Sun, and is aimed at authorities and fans, he talks about the daily torment he is currently facing and says he is taking the 'huge step' of revealing his sexuality.  

But he added that football is not ready for a player to announce they are openly gay and has said he fears disclosing his identity.

He writes: "I am gay. Even writing that down in this letter is a big step for me.

“But only my family members and a select group of friends are aware of my sexuality. I don't feel ready to share it with my team or my manager.

“How does it feel having to live like this? Day-to-day, it can be an absolute nightmare. And it is affecting my mental health more and more,” he says.

“I feel trapped and my fear is disclosing the truth about what I am will only make things worse.”

Fashanu is fully aware of the turmoil the player is facing, but believes he has taken a vital step.

Justin Fashanu, Amal's uncle, was the first footballer in England to come out as gay (PA Archive)

She said: “This is the first time we have a Premier League player talking about being openly gay and this for us is quite important.

"When we received the letter at the foundation we were very honoured and I think the fact that people are sharing it and the positive reaction that it's having, it encourages us to continue to raise awareness because at some point we are going to get an openly gay Premier League football player and no one is going to care as much as they think they are. So yeah it's a very important day.”

Fashanu said she was hopeful more players would feel able to speak out as a result.

"I don't really know if it will encourage them, but I think they are going to feel a bit more backed and supported as there are people who are in a similar situation and no one has really said anything until now. 

“You always need someone to put their foot forward and be like ‘I am the one’, and I think in the 90's it was Justin, but it has been a while now, nearly 30 years, it's almost the case of this is potentially the person who is going to step in and be brave enough to be who they are.”

So does she think this current player will one day come out publicly?

“I definitely think so, and I would love to hope so as this is the foundation work, this is what we are trying to do, trying to make an environment for a footballer to happily come out and feel happy, but I'm not sure if I'm being naive in saying that.”

Justin Fashanu, who played for Norwich City, tragically took his own life eight years after coming out.

Amal has told NewsChain previously she wanted to help create an environment in the sport where players feel safe to be open with their sexuality.

“My main aim for the foundation would be to provide a course or class where we go through Justin's story and we teach kids and different ages what it means to be homosexual,” she said.  

"Teach them about inclusion and equality and just letting them know there's a space for them regardless of their age, sex, gender and what their preferences are.

"It's important to me because it's following Justin's legacy. It's honouring his name and what he worked so hard for.

“Apart from being a talented footballer, he was the first openly gay professional player which shows he was very courageous and he had guts to do what he did back then, when no one now has even tried it.” 

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