The tragic story of Britain’s first and only openly gay professional footballer is the subject of the debut single by three-piece Elephants and Castles.
‘Fashanu’ is a tribute to Justin Fashanu, the Hackney-born footballer who committed suicide in a lock-up garage in Shoreditch in 1998.
Singer Robin Spencer, a primary teacher in Hackney who used to be an apprentice footballer, met Fashanu as a six-year-old on a football course in the school holidays.
“His presence and charisma made a big impression on me,” says Spencer. “I had his poster on my wall and followed his career so was really shocked when I found out he’d committed suicide.”
Fashanu was Britain’s first black £1 million player, but experienced homophobic abuse throughout his career.
In the late 1990s he was accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy whilst working as a coach in Maryland, US.
Fearing he would not receive a fair trial, he fled to England where he was found hanged two months later.
In his suicide note he denied the charges and claimed the sex was consensual.
Despite the sober subject matter, ‘Fashanu’ the song is an upbeat, guitar-driven number with a strong melodic refrain.
“We like having serious messages and stories in our songs that mean something to us and to juxtapose them with upbeat tunes with really nice melodies and harmonies,” says Spencer.
“Lots of great bands have done that in the past and I think it helps put the message across.”