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Campaign starts in Fashanu's honour

PUBLISHED: 08:58 22 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 30 June 2010

The niece of tragic former Norwich City star has given her backing to a campaign to kick homophobia out of football by appearing at an event in the city - on what would have been her uncle's 49th birthday.

The niece of tragic former Norwich City star has given her backing to a campaign to kick homophobia out of football by appearing at an event in the city - on what would have been her uncle's 49th birthday.

Justin Fashanu, a former England U21 star who scored 40 goals for the Canaries in 103 appearances for the club between 1979 and 1981, battled against homophobia, prejudice, and discrimination throughout his career until his life came to a tragic end in 1998 when he committed suicide in a garage in Shoreditch, east London.

But the life and times of Fashanu were celebrated in pictures and in print yesterdayat a Football v Homophobia exhibition held at the Forum.

The exhibition was part of an initiative launched by the Justin Campaign, which was set up in honour of Fashanu in a bid to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that exist around gay men in football, and was attended by the soccer star's niece Amal Fashanu.

Amal, 21, a student at Brunel University in west London where she is studying for a degree in media and communication studies, said she was touched that her uncle's life was being remembered in this way.

She said: “I'm very touched by the fact that some people are interested in my uncle. It's his birthday and it's been very helpful to know that other people are suffering his loss. He's my uncle, my family, but I feel very touched other people are interested.

“I feel very, very proud. I can't believe that there are people doing this and other people who are or were in his position feel that this campaign can help them and move things forward.”

Ms Fashanu, who is also an aspiring model and singer, said that although she was very young when her uncle died, she still had fond memories of him.

She said: “I was a girl and wasn't that interested in football. I've seen him on TV and knew that he was talented. He died when I was very young. He personally was the best uncle anyone could have - he was funny, happy, a very special person to anyone that met him. I was very, very fortunate. He was a very, very special person.”

Ms Fashanu said she hoped the Justin Campaign and its Football v Homophobia initiative would help one day achieve its goal of getting gay men and women accepted and added that her uncle would have been very proud.

She said: “It's a long road but I still feel that change can come. He would be up there looking down and thinking: 'I did something good and because of me many other people are actually happy'.”

Jason Hall, a founder of the Justin Campaign, said he was delighted Ms Fashanu could be at yesterday's event which was organised as part of a bid to “galvanise efforts against homophobia in football” and featured a series of other events in the UK and abroad.

He said: “It's about getting the message about that it's unacceptable what's happening within football and the world of sport as a whole. People just need education - it's wrong, there's no debate homophobia is wrong.”

To find out more about the Justin Campaign or how you can get involved, log onto www.justincampaign.co.uk

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