Taslim Martin, one of Britain’s leading sculptors, will create statue of Norwich legend who was the first out gay professional footballer; “we hope to prompt awareness of homophobia in sport and conversations about how to make football a happy and safe space for all,” says campaign lead Andrew Reynolds from Proud Canaries…
A project to build a statue of Norwich City legend Justin Fashanu – the world’s first out gay professional footballer – has been officially started with the launch of a fundraising campaign.
Proud Canaries, the supporters group for Norwich City fans who are LGBTQ+ and their allies, is encouraging people to donate what they can via GoFundMe, having set an overall target of £150,000.
A promotional video for the campaign – narrated by one of Norwich’s most famous fans, Stephen Fry – has also been released, reminding viewers of the importance of recognising a man who was also Britain’s first million-pound Black footballer.
Tragically, Fashanu died by suicide in 1998 after experiencing racist and homophobic abuse throughout his life, particularly after coming out publicly via a tabloid newspaper in 1990.
The statue of Fashanu will be created by Black sculptor Taslim Martin, one of Britain’s pre-eminent artists in the medium, and will replicate the forward’s iconic celebration after scoring for Norwich against Liverpool in the First Division in 1980 – a stunning strike that was later named the BBC Goal of the Season.
Professor Andrew Reynolds, a member of Proud Canaries and scholar who is leading on the campaign, said: “Amongst the backdrop of the Qatar World Cup, where the lack of LGBTQ+ rights is in the spotlight, we see Justin’s statue as more than a celebration of the man.
“Justin’s statue says to every player, regardless of skin colour or sexual orientation: play the game you love and we will love you as you play the game.
“We hope that Justin’s statue will prompt awareness of persistent homophobia in sport and conversations about how to make football a happy and safe space for all.”
Reynolds and Proud Canaries have already garnered support from a broad swathe of Norwich fans and the local community. Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones and director Thomas Smith are said to be backing the project, while Gary Lineker and The Football Association were among those to tweet their support on Wednesday.
The plan is to situate the statue on the banks of the River Wensum, greeting fans as they approach Norwich’s Carrow Road ground.
The £150,000 raised will cover the costs of the design, construction and installation of the statue; contributions to the surrounding garden design and maintenance; and educational materials.
“Justin’s statue is about much more than football,” says sculptor Martin. “There is a bigger question of who we accept, celebrate and respect as a nation.
“Of the 2,600 public statues in Britain on Art UK’s database, not a single one is of a gay black man. Justin’s statue will be the first.
“I’m honoured to be creating this statue, which we hope will play an important role in opening up the game to LGBTQ+ representation.”
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