This painting pays tribute to the only professional footballer to openly declare himself gay, Justin Fashanu. The other silhouettes do not represent any players but are symbolic of the silence and non-acceptence that surrounds homosexuality in some parts of the football community. When he became Britain’s first one million pound player, on transferring to Notts Forest in 1981,his future looked bright but manager Brian Clough was rumoured to be disturbed by his lifestyle and his career stalled. When Fashanu came out in 1990 he received severe criticism, including from his brother John and claims his declaration ruined his football career in England forcing him to move to the USA for work.
Fourteen years after his tragic suicide there are still no footballers who have admitted to being gay. Is this because there are none, which seems unlikely or, because attitudes such as those faced by Fashanu still prevail and fears of being ostracised still exist? Sadly football only reflects the same attitudes some sections of society hold and one can only look forward to the day when to everyone a person’s sexuality is, to paraphrase Martin Luther King,”of no more significance than the colour of his eyes”.