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Life of footballers Justin and John Fashanu being adapted into ITV drama

Justin Fashanu (PA)
Justin Fashanu (PA)

The life of Justin Fashanu, the first professional footballer in England to come out as gay, and his brother John, is being adapted into an ITV drama by Bafta-nominated writer Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Aged 20, Justin became one of the first footballers to command a £1 million transfer fee when he moved from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981.

In 1990, he was the first male footballer to publicly come out as gay. He took his own life in 1998 aged 37.

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John Fashanu (Myung Jung Kim/PA)

The series, titled Fash, will dramatise how in 1981 his younger brother John signed to Norwich City, the same club where Justin made his name.

As Justin’s “star fades” and life becomes mired by pitch-side rumour and front-page tabloid headlines, John supersedes Justin as the “famous Fashanu” and by the time of his death, the two are wholly estranged.

According to ITV, Fash will chart their lives from childhoods spent in Barnardo’s care homes to the care of a white foster family to their “tragic and irreconcilable” estrangement played out in the media.

The series has been created with the help of John, serving as a consultant alongside LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell.

John said: “I’m so pleased to be working with Kwame and Happy Prince on this project.

“Much has been said and written about the relationship Justin and I shared over the years, but drama of this type has an ability to delve right to the beating heart and truth of events in a way other media can’t.

“I feel privileged to play a part in bringing it to the screen.”

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Playwright, director and actor Kwame Kwei-Armah (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Kwei-Armah, who is also artistic director of the Young Vic theatre, said: “I grew up watching the Fashanu brothers. I was fascinated by them. Inspired by them.

“As an adult, my heart breaks for them. ‘The past is a foreign land’, the saying goes, ‘they do things differently there’.

“In Fash, I wanted to dive into that past, particularly one that has so many resonances with today.”

Tatchell said: “This is a powerful, moving life story that needs to be told.

“I am very honoured to act as a consultant to the production team, based on my friendship with Justin Fashanu in the 1980s.”

The series will be produced by Happy Prince, part of ITV Studios, and will premiere on ITV1 and also be available as a boxset on ITVX once the first episode has aired.