The content of this interview includes the topic of mental health and suicide. You should always consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. If you’re in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your local emergency line immediately.
Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the episode today, we have John Fashanu. John, welcome. Thank you very much, thank you. It is my pleasure. First question I always like to ask, just because I’m interested to know what your answer will be. The question is, who are you? Well many people have asked me that. Sometimes I ask myself that, who are you? But I’m John Fashanu, former professional footballer, played for England at the highest level, and played for Aston Villa, played for Wimbledon, played for Millwall, played for Norwich City and then went into the martial arts world. And as I’ve known of today I think I’m the only Nigerian who’s got four black belts in martial arts. I’ve always been a very sporty type of person. That’s John Fashanu.
Oh of course, sorry. How could I forget the Gladiators presenter of course and Deal or No Deal. The second one I did, so television presenter as well. Well thank you for the introduction. One of the reasons why I didn’t do like a formal introduction is because you’ve got so much stuff going on and when I was researching your story, my perception of your story is that you have had a difficult time but you have achieved a great deal, and so the theme of the episode is going to be around mental toughness, so the first question is around kind of definition also, what does mental toughness mean to you? Mental toughness means resisting, resisting. I’ve got to say it, racial slurs, somebody who’s come up from the 80s, always saw that particular time was racial slurs was Some some pretty nasty things.
I won’t go into them all, but playing football and being one of the only blacks, I remember my counterpart John Barnes who was playing there and Viv Anderson from Nottingham Forest and one or two, but we were really on our own from every single joke there was a racist slur in it. So you have to have thick skin. If you don’t have thick skin, you are not going to make it, you’re not going to survive. So mental toughness is knowing how to push away those racial slurs, and I’ve got to say it and I, I don’t want to put any pressure on anybody but Millwall, a club that I grew to love and was wonderful. But the first time I played against Millwall and I was playing for Lincoln City there, the racial slurs. I couldn’t get off the bus. I needed police officers for me to be able to go into the changing room because of the hate and the venom was just, I’ve never seen it before in my life.
Well, thank you for sharing that, and I did definitely want to get into that part of your story. Before I do, how mentally tough are you, would you say? If there was a scoreboard and it said from 1 to 10, I would say that mental toughness, I would say that I’ve got to be 9, I’ve got to be 9. If the wife says something horrible, then I might have a cry. That’s the reason why I lose, but apart from that, no, no, no, no, no. I’ve been through it. I’ve seen it and as you know, I’ve done it. Well, you alluded to one thing. The next question was going to be what caused you to develop your mental toughness. Would you say it was predominantly football and the way you were treated in football? Oh definitely. You know, I remember playing at Old Trafford Manchester United’s home ground and I remember the songs and the songs stay in my head. He’s big, he’s black, his ass is up for grabs. Fashanu, Fashanu. He’s big, he’s black, his ass is up for grabs. What the?
I mean that used to rip me apart when I used to get that even coming down the tunnel as the captain knowing that I was the captain and those of you who are watching and listening, you will know that the Manchester United captain was Bryan Robson then of course, and we’re coming down the tunnel and the Manchester United fans are singing that. The embarrassment, the humility I got from that. I mean it was terrible. I must admit that was pretty strong. And remember You’re getting all that you’ve now got to play 90 minutes and you’ve got to be on your best behavior. And at that stage there was one other black player that was the right back called Viv Anderson apart from that, there was just Viv and myself. So there’s one black one black and we were up for a lot. Well my, I don’t know, my interpretation of your sort of behavior is that you dealt with it well. Would you say that that’s true or would you say put on a brave face?
I would say that I put on a brave face initially. I would say that sometimes I couldn’t actually understand it. I would go home and as it was, I was actually fostered, my mother and father were white, so there’s no point going home crying and talking to my mother and father because they didn’t understand it because they were white anyway, so you know, you go in the corner and you have a little cry and you think about it a little bit, the most important thing was not to get angry. Once you start to get angry, I noticed, you know, you start to become a liability, people are not liking you and if you are the only black, it’s not going to work, because I remember when I was playing against Liverpool again, the mighty reds and somebody said a racist remark or not somebody, well I will say his name if that’s all right? Kenny Dalglish.
Kenny, out of everybody. Upper Scotland. I mean he was, he said some bad things, you know, and I accepted it, but when I got off the pitch, I just wanted to break everything there, I felt so angry, I now wanted to go back and I wanted to fight him and you know, at the end of the day I realized that don’t get angry. Best thing to do is to laugh and smile and walk away, make friends, don’t make enemies. That’s how I handle that situation. Some say it was right, Some say it was wrong. I’m walking down Oxford Street on a Friday afternoon and the gentleman comes up to me and he just says, looks at me straight in the face and says, you’re black and you stink. Now, that is not something which I thought came into my category at all. The gentleman wanted a confrontation, he wanted to fight. I could see that he knew who I was because he recognized me and what he wanted was for me to flare up. I did the reverse. I put my arm around him and I said, “Hey, hey look, how much do I smell? Come on, let me get you a drink, let me get you something.”
Because in actual fact, I was petrified because I didn’t want to get into all in fight in Oxford Street where everybody’s gonna know John Fashanu, but I had to calm that situation down and I realized that happiness and laughing at situations get you out of a lot of trouble. You can only fight when two people want to fight. When one doesn’t want to fight and he’s laughing and he’s putting his hand around you and laughing. Oh, it’s very, very difficult. And the gentleman ended up having a pint of beer with me. We went and had a drink and a little bite to eat and I’ve never saw the guy again, wonderful. Well I just, I feel an immense amount of empathy for you in terms of the kind of things and the language that you’ve been exposed to. So I mean I’m just saying that just because I feel that way. Thank you. You did a documentary and it was from nothing to something and it’s really good for people who are interested, I think you did a great job there.
And the first thing that they covered was your, you went into foster care. And my, I wanted to ask you, how how much do you think that that had an impact on your mental toughness as an individual? I think that, well, let me not mince words. I think 100% of the strength, mental strength that I have and Justin had then was my brother of course was through the fact that we were both fostered by white parents. The white parents were very strong. My mother was a schoolteacher, very strong, very aggressive and literally all the time was on our back. I remember I had a very good friend called Mace, a great guy, sat down me at the dinner table and we were talking and I was talking absolute rubbish as I used to all the time. And my mom came around and she gave me one dirty slapped around the head and told me shut up and mace looked at me and I looked at mom, I didn’t cry, I just kept quiet and I was just watching and I felt that yeah, this is this is actually changing me.
I mean, I was shocked at it, secondly, we were at a little church get together and there was a young lady there and she was white and I just gave her a peck on the cheek and she responded with a peck for me as well. And then the third one was going to be lip to lip, you know how we are? And I went to give her a kiss, my foster mother whose name was Betty. She came around behind me and she gave me the hardest slap around the face ever. And this was a continuation of me ever going with any white girls or anything like that, because it was a very difficult situation, because here you have a white father and a white mother who have fostered you, but they’ve never fostered black Children before. They didn’t know that most blacks will have prolapse arches, which means flat arches of their feet. And of course with me, she put handkerchiefs and all sorts socks and all sorts of things under my feet, my long foot because she thought that that would push up the muscles and get me arched feet.
So all of these situations, of course you come out scarred, of course you’ll come out wondering, you know, where do I go here? And what is the relationship with white and black? Thank you for sharing that somewhat a little bit disappointed because I was kind of hoping that you, you got exposed to people, I don’t want to presume, but people that would support you and perhaps would look past that skin color treat you equally. Is that fair or You know that in the storybooks maybe, but anywhere else that’s not gonna work. You know, let’s go back 30 years, 35 years and you know, you will know I was in a rural area called Schropen. Um and there I am in Schropen going to school in a place called Attleborough. Absolutely no blacks at all. When I go to see my friend, you’re told john wait outside, could you please?
I said, but mom, mom, Madam, it’s raining. She said wait outside. My son is coming and I go and wait outside. I’m soaking wet and then we’ll go get into a car and it was stigmatized you were always because there was nothing there that you didn’t know you were black. You knew all the time. You were black. I’ll give you another prime example and this is not saying, oh, I couldn’t manage it, but it was something which it got worse before it got better, we would on the school bus is we go to school and as we’re coming off the busses, I got four or five big white boys who would now beat me up, how do they beat me up? Well, we got to the school and then they would take me up around the other side of the bus which was a 23 seater bus and then they would give me slaps and say all sorts of terrible things, then they didn’t seem so bad, then it seemed normal, but in its own way, that’s the reason why today I became a martial arts expert because I got tired at that age of being beaten up.
And I remember my older brother Justin, who sadly passed away, he took me down to the boxing gym and said, look, you can’t be every day from school, you’re coming with I broken your nose, a tooth knocked out, you can’t live like this. So let’s try and do some boxing. Again, naturally, as a sportsman, I took to boxing and I started doing boxing and that was how I was able to defend myself. Words don’t defend you actions will certainly defend you. Well, you touched on something, which I was I wanted to ask you about and that is the karate um experience and I love the fact that you basically, you went into karate and you you became a great martial artist from I think most people’s perspective, well I haven’t heard you be asked about your no, let’s say stories and your experiences in that.
So what would you say your favorite stories or moments of your karate career for lack of a better term? I think um the training was magnificent. There I am in ST john’s wood in London and I had a beautiful penthouse and I would bring chinese martial arts experts, the masters as we call them, most of them for black belts and I would actually pay for them to come to London. They would stay in my penthouse and remember the communication was always a challenge, especially with a very british english accent like mine and then bringing somebody in, it was amazing. I would, they would put a blindfold on my eyes and he would get a stick And the stick was a long two m stick with a sharp edge on it and it would be a red like paint on the sharp edge, I would wear a shirt which I got like on now white and then he would, with my eyes closed slowly, gently, quietly poke me in different places and mine was to be able to stop it, stop the punctures block them only using one arm or one hand.
And that was also to be able to do it very gently as well because the martial art is not about force, the martial art is about technique. So that was, I was crazy to break it, break it straight away. You know, that’s what I knew violence. You know, and it was those, my son say layers. My teachers who actually spoke to me and taught me that softly softly to catch the monkey, take it easy, do things gently. It’s not all about how much you can punch somebody or how you can do those things. And I suddenly realized that, whoa, I didn’t know I had this, you know, I got an Ak 47 here with these hands, but you don’t always have to use them, you don’t have to use them. And that’s why I it’s a repetitive thing. I say when two people want to fight, you’re going to have a horrible fight. But when one person wants to fight and there’s two people, you are going nowhere.
And that’s exactly because I now became very confident with the martial arts world and being a boxer, I had 30 36 fights, I think I won uh, I think it’s 30 to 32 fights, boxing. So I could see that naturally I was athletic and naturally I was good at those particular sports, but I didn’t want to and I realized that every day I was getting into a confrontational situation because I was walking around, I’m john Fashanu, oh, I’m going to beat your work. But as you get older, you realize that you don’t want to get into those confrontational situations. And one of the reasons why I never get into any fights, any confrontational situations is because I know what I could do. So now it’s sort of all ended with four black belts in martial arts, a pretty good track record in boxing and psychologically quite a strong mind.
So, you know, maybe I’m not the person to meet if you’re an armed robber, Well, I’m interested to know about the self esteem side of things once you go from perhaps not being able to defend yourself to being more competent in that area to make you feel different. Yes, you know, of course, you felt very, very comfortable. I remember when I actually did my first boxing session, I couldn’t box to save my life yet, I was able to punch somebody and he went down, the lad did and didn’t get up again. I was, I just felt like, wow, a new person, I couldn’t believe it, but when you have the feasts and you have the elbows and you’re used to doing things, you have to be very careful. So, you know, it’s a situation where I know what I can achieve, so I don’t get into those situations at all now, absolutely at all, maybe it’s because I’m getting a little bit older and you get a little bit more experience, but this is something that I’ve had for quite some time that I’ve known that, you know, I’ve got the power there, but I don’t want to use it, I don’t want to use it now.
Let’s go, let’s let’s, for example, sorry about that. But I just want to sorry to cut you. But let’s go to the football pitch now on the football pitch. I let myself down severally, you know, you know, with going into a tackle, getting into a pushing and shoving, but never into an actual fight, pushing and shoving back way this way and that way, that’s the best we could ever get. But then the truth was the way that I push another player might be a little bit different to a normal person pushing another player so that we take that into consideration as well. So she one of the things I wanted to highlight because um, some people have criticized you for being too physical. But when you look back at some of the things that you’ve mentioned today, I mean, I I’m kind of it makes me feel fine with it. You know, considering the fact that you all the things that you went through. Okay, well, you know, that’s that’s just fine with me. If you’re too physical because you know what I’m trying to say.
Yeah, well, let’s get it right for the books and for the viewers and the listeners, not a few people think I’m too, most people think I’m a bully. Most people say him fashion. Oh, oh, he’s a monster. Don’t mind him, he did this to my son, this this this this this they’re not far wrong, are they? When you’re playing for the crazy gang, of course the Wimbledon, that was our duty. That was what we knew. So of course, I myself have been very embarrassed when sometimes I used to go to the football association dinners, but I had to stop going with Vinnie jones myself because most of the players who were there, we’ve beaten them up or giving them black eyes somewhere. We had been sitting on a table on our own. Nobody want to see Fashanu and Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise, they’re mad those guys. no, no, no, no, we don’t want to sit with them. So yes, most people did say he’s a bully.
I suppose the point I was trying to highlight was they probably they weren’t trying to sort of highlight the, when when you were going through terrible things, they weren’t doing anything about that, but when you actually decided to look after yourself all of a sudden they have an issue with it, so I guess that’s the only thing I was trying to highlight. You mentioned the Millwall, the Millwall scenario with Yeah, and I have heard you tell it before, that story of going from playing there as an away team and then actually joining, but I think it’s a great story and I’d like to pick your brains on it, so do you mind telling that story. Yes, certainly. I was playing for Lincoln City. I think most of the listeners, viewers would know Lincoln City and I was doing pretty well. We went to play mule in the third division and it was a war. The actual bus couldn’t take any of our, us of the players off the bus for nearly an hour because the crowd outside. Black n****, n****, n****, Black S***o W*g.
There’s no bad name for a black man that you can say that I have not heard, I assure you. And I learned them all when I was at Millwall. They hated me with a capital H and they were, if he gets off we’ll kill him, n****. I’m only black, There’s no other black there. You are not black in the Millwall area. Don’t kid yourself, you’re never going to survive there. So when the police now came in there was six police officers and I always remember it because I had three one side, three the other side, I’m just getting off the bus. All of my teammates have already gone into the changing room, but I’m sitting on the bus like a cucumber waiting for police escorts to escort me to my changing ground. That’s all. Not even have I started to shout and scream at anybody or anything at all. This is how much the hate was. So when I got to the changing room, I was not ready to play football.
No, the abuse I had, oh my goodness me, the cans which were being thrown all sorts of rubbish was being thrown at me, and I must admit, I had a little breakdown because you get to that stage where you know, I’m okay, you get to that stage where you had so much abuse, Oh, so much abuse. But you gotta go on, you’ve got to be strong, because that’s what we know. So anyway, when I got onto the pitch it was the worst thing I’ve ever had, the racial slurs. But you know, you’ve got to be strong there and even your own teammates can’t help you because they don’t know what you’re going through, they don’t know what you’re going through. And if I’m truthful, you know, and I said it only once before, I didn’t want the ball, I was actually trying to run away from the ball because every time I got the ball the racial slurs, everything would start going crazy and the abuse I would get.
So I would actually just spend my time really tricking everybody running away from the ball. If the ball comes down the right wing, I would somehow find myself down the left wing. If it came down the left wing, I would make sure that I was in defense pretending I got injured, I wouldn’t move, because I was scared if the ball came to me in the 18 yard box. Oh I didn’t know what to do with it because I just couldn’t focus. It was that difficult. So you can imagine getting that much abuse. And then three days later when I got back to Lincoln, Millwall United, Millwall rang up Lincoln city and said we would like to buy John Fashanu. Wow. I had one of my worst games ever and I’ve been running away from the ball and now the manager who was called George Graham, of course those football lovers were no George Graham from arsenal captain.
And what happened? Four days later after going through hell at Millwall, the Den, they called it. I was now coming to be one of the den members. I was now going to become a footballer for the most racist team in the divisions. Stupidly, I did it. I needed the money. Who doesn’t need the money. I came back and as I came in, I never forget it. I came in with a little bag and I kept my head down. I didn’t look at anybody. I don’t want to offend anybody. I came in, head down, put my shirt on the hanger and one of the players, my own player now, Millwall player took my shirt and threw it on the floor. I sat down, I don’t want to get into trouble. I put my hand out to shake hands with my new team. Players slapped my hand away. Not interested.
I thought maybe I’ve made a mistake. But that little transfer for £55,000 was enough to feed my family and start us off. So now we had a friendly match. Millwall against Millwall. Fine. Nobody was talking to me. Nobody wanted to say anything to me. I hadn’t said one word to me. I went out onto the pitch. George Graham. The manager was a wonderful man. But even he had never seen this situation before. And as I got the ball, I heard n****, give me the ball, give me the ball, give me the ball, n****. I looked around. I won’t say his name. I didn’t say anything, Hey, you’re W*g, W*g, W*g you c**n! You f*****g c**n, black b*****d! This is my own team. I thought it was coming from the way team. This is my own team who are abusing me. What the heck is going on? So what do you do? You shrivel up, your confidence goes, you don’t want the ball again. The same scenario of what’s going on.
So I went to the captain and I thought, let me face this mother f****r and I faced him and I said to him, I’m not a n****, I’m not a W*g. I’m not a S***o and I’m not a black b*****d. I’ve come here to play football to make this team and help this team. And I want it to be better. He looked at me and he punched me straight in the face wrongly or rightly. I punched him back another player, and this is my own team, This is my own team. Let’s make it very clear the team that I’m supposed to be one of the members before I know what’s happening. I’m now fighting all of my team. They are throwing kicks at me. We’re fighting on the pitch. Ah this is ridiculous. The center forward and I’m fighting with all my own teammates and they are giving me hell. The young man who I hit and I’m sorry, yes I did hit him. He was rushed to hospital and his jaw was broken.
So the manager George Graham, he said blew his whistle, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! What is going on? Fashanu, come here. I said yes boss. He said go and wait for me in my office. What? You’ve got 10 other players and they’re all white. I’m the only black and you’re telling me I have to meet you because you’re going to obviously penalize me or you’re going to take money from me or you’re gonna lock me up. What’s gonna happen? He took me into his his office and he said look John Fashanu you’re the only black, you’re the first black to come here. He said now you can do it the easy way or you can do it the bad way. I want you to go and apologize to all of the team. I said apologize for what. He said, apologize or you will not play for Millwall again. I said but sir, I’ve only just been here three days.
This is my only my third day. I said look. He said do it. I said I don’t want to fight. So I went back into the changing room and I said guys, I mean I was I’m not gonna lie to you, I had tears in my eyes. I said sorry guys, sorry this one, sorry, I’m trying to shake hands. Nobody wanted to shake hands, nobody wanted to shake hands. In the end my punishment was to sit on the floor in the corner like a kid, but we’re adults, we’re men, but the most humiliating thing for them to do to me was to put me in the corner and that’s what I did and I realized that I have to be subservient whether I like it or not or I’m going to be fighting 10 players every day and that’s what happened on the pitch. We now started. There was a transformation slowly the captain of mule who seemed to be a very decent person. He now started to feel the pain that I was going through and you can’t play when your mind is everywhere all the time.
It was getting to a stage where you know the division between black and white was so glaring, even the supporters, I could see that nobody liked me, they wouldn’t pass the ball to me. Hey n****, go to the right, I go to the right, they pass the ball to the left, Go to the left, n****, you go to the left, they pass the ball to the right. How can I be a center forward? And I’ve touched the ball three times in 90 minutes? Wow. These guys don’t like me. So slowly. I had to fight my way into respect. What do I mean? I mean I had to do things which they would go, wow, that’s good. I mean that when one of our players, number six gets into a little bit of a pushing match with another player, I would burst in for no reason at all and brand get in with the other boy and make sure he’s happy. Are you okay, Deano? Are you all right?
This is how I built my friendship showing that I could fight when there was a bit of a fight. I would go extra. Sometimes even get sent off for absolute no reason at all. I didn’t need to do that. But I needed to do it to get the confidence of my teammates, for the teammates to respect me to the teammates. To me. I had to go and beat the s**t out of somebody on the pitch even though the players who what the hell are you doing? That’s not football. You’re just fighting everywhere. But that’s what I did. And that’s how I got up to then be the captain after a year, year and a half of this going on and these boys didn’t like me. they’ll go out in the evening time and they’ll go for a drink and they’ll go for a smoke, I didn’t drink, I don’t smoke, I didn’t particularly like their environment either where they were so you know it was ying and yang, but that’s the story of Mill but let me, I gotta finish off how it actually finished because the fans became so loving and the fans are mule and they became too like me and loved me so much.
The players whether they liked it or not and I assure you most of the players didn’t like me, but the fans were amazing. The support the fans gave me that that in itself was worth even more than the captain shaking hands with me once in a while and I got very strong there they liked in the end the players after the crowd started to sing Fash, big Fash, big Fash and in a nice way the other players followed suit and started to now realize that hey, I just want to be a footballer. I don’t want any of the other ship. I just want to be a footballer man and they themselves now started to shake my hand and then started to get used to it because the only blacks that they knew in Millwall were blacks that they were always beating up or they were spitting at or they were urinating at so they never had a time to build a relationship with any blacks and of course if you were a black woman in Millwall then and you had a relationship with a white man, they were Stanley your face, that’s the little razor and they will get you down and they will Stanley you.
So you’ll see the black woman, she’s got cuts all her eyes. That’s because she went with a white man. So that would tell you that was the pinnacle of racism in that era in that area. So it was a journey when I left Millwall to come to Wimbledon by Now I had 30,000 Millwall fans loving John Fashanu. Why did they love John Fashanu? Because I was hard because I exaggerated everything. If I went in for a tackle, I would go in there and break someone’s legs. I would do what I could to fight starts, everybody looks for john fashion it because I’m coming in there man, I’m gonna do what I gotta do. And the fans, they loved it. They loved it. So I always say how I played football was the way that most of the fans lived their lives aggression, angry, bitter, any fight war you’re going down. I Remember one situation there was just a throwing a simple throwing of the ball and I went over the player had it as he had it.
I head butted him, boom, put my head in his face, I had no business, no reason to do it at all. But the area where he did it where I did, it was where so many Millwall fans were there and they were the real tough ones. So I had to show them that I fear nobody. I was sent off and as I was sent off, the crowd were going crazy. And when I got into the changing room, I felt like a jean man, I felt like a star. I’m in there going, yeah, yeah, walking around, kicking everything. Yeah, I’ve done it. I’ve done it, I’ve done it. What have I done? I’ve got the acceptance of the mule fans, the den, they love me and that’s where we were. What advice would you give to someone facing similar circumstances? Would you recommend doing the same thing or different advice? Whoa, That’s a good question. Look street, go to the streets, you want to survive on the street.
You gotta do what you gotta do to survive if you don’t do what you ain’t gonna do, there’s nobody gonna accept you. I did what I had to do and it had a positive result. It meant that my own teammates are not going to beat me up or try and beat me up. It meant that the crowd are not going to throw urine at me or apples or bananas. It meant that I was gonna be a celebrity in the Millwall environment. If I had to say to somebody, you got to do what you gotta do to survive. I’ll tell you man, I’ll tell you straight you do what I did because you go in there and you try and do anything different. They’re gonna deal with you. They are going to deal with you. And let me tell you when they deal with you from the referee, from the linesman, from the captain’s, you’ll get no sympathy, no sympathy at all situations where the ball has has gone out of play a look at the referee, referee make a decision.
We all know I can feel it. I know which way it’s gonna go. They don’t mean to be. But it’s endemic in the system, racism is endemic in the system. The guy try and get that thing called racism out can take years and can take forever or never and 35 years I’ve been in the game at the highest level and I will tell you racism is actually worse than when I began in 35 years ago. I was gonna ask you whether you with your move to Millwall, did you pave the way for other other black footballers to make it a little bit better for them. Do you think? Well that was the idea subconsciously that is exactly what I did for the first time. The second time the third time more black players were joining Millwall, and it was quite funny because I remember the manager not sure on how to refer to black players.
He didn’t want to say they’re black. He didn’t want to say the n****, He didn’t want to say they’re colored. So put him in a dilemma with his words. Uh, couldn’t remember the name. Uh, new players coming in before before when I was starting, Hey Blacky Black Black. What’s your name again? Oh, sorry, sorry. Fashion. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. But you’ve already said black Black. I mean, what’s your name? Oh, Fashanu, Fashanu. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it passionate. Do you see the change was there? The Change? slowly, slowly. I think that one day there will be a change, but I think that’s a long and a lot of years away. A lot of years when you’ve done conversations previously in this kind of environment or in person, people have been willing to ask you very personal questions if you like.
And I would be hesitant to ask you about Justin just because I feel like I’ve got some empathy around maybe how you feel about that thing. But when people come on the show, um, there are some things which I think there’s some experience here where other people can benefit from. And as far as I’m aware, um, people haven’t asked you these questions and I think it would be beneficial. So the first one is, um, what advice would you give to someone who is not okay with a family member coming out based on the fact that you’ve had those years to think about it. Well, let’s clarify when you say, what do you mean when you say coming out, there are many listeners and followers who don’t understand. What do you mean coming out? So, um saying that they’re gay to everyone? Yeah, well, you know, I’m even seeing your you’re embarrassed when you’re saying it, I can see you’re not you yourself and you’re not comfortable. So, if you can imagine your first thing would say he was gay. We all agree he was getting we all know that he was gay and at this stage in our in our lives, we should be able to say that he was he was gay.
There’s no way to hide that. Let me be honest. Let let me jump back those many, many years and explain to the viewers and listeners why why would I hate my brother? Who’s the homosexual? Well, it wasn’t because he was gay. It was because he came out and said that he was a homosexual when most people didn’t give a s**t. Most people don’t care. I don’t feel the need to tell everybody I’m heterosexual and all for who cares. So what he did, and one of the reasons why it’s stuck on miss and it came so badly was because jay Fashanu and j Fashanu where one year apart. So lots of people would get Justin and myself mixed up, I’m not gay? I’m not saying that to clear my name at all. I’m just saying I’m not gay. So it was an offense when somebody would come and say to me, hey flash how you doing?
And I turn around and the guys almost kissing me almost on top of me. He’s a he’s a he’s a gay guy. That is not my way of life, that’s not the way I live my way of life. And that was not the way I expected Justin to live his way of life. Remember we’re talking 14 years ago anybody come out and say that they were gay. It was like an a nominal. Nobody had had the balls to say that. I remember I gave my manager, I won’t say his name, remember I gave him a substantial amount of money and told him go and give it to my brother. Justin tell Justin to keep quiet. I don’t think there is any need for him to tell the world that he is homosexual or heterosexual. Who cares? That was my thought. And I had heard already through the great mind through the streets that Justin was his name was going to do a front page story talking about his relationships with men that didn’t go down well with me at all.
If it goes down with anybody that’s fine, we’re all different in life. That was almost offensive to me. So I offered him a substantial amount of money to keep quiet. Justin, things are going so well I’m just going up in football, you’re coming down in football now, it might have been because of my greed and my, the fact that I wasn’t caring enough for my brother and I should have maybe understood a little bit more, but the actual story which went into the newspapers came out simultaneously in all the newspapers, Justin, Fashanu is gay now. Whoa, that was a lot to take in. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that my manager who I gave the money to to give it a Justin was also gay and was a sympathizer. So when I put my brother Justin who’s, by the way, he’s older than me when I put him in a hotel, lovely hotel in London, put him out there and told him just keep him there, keep him out the way we can lessen the situation because on the Saturday I was supposed to be playing against Manchester United and I didn’t want the same abuse as I was already getting because it was already leaking out.
The story hadn’t come out yet and I didn’t think it was necessary who feels it necessary to come out and tell them what your preference is, who cares, they care what you do with your feet on the pitch, but the personal side of things, I expected them to keep quiet. So the story broke on this Saturday, it was in four or five newspapers, front page everywhere, so I felt that Justin had taken one over on me because not only did I give him a large amount of money, I mean a large amount of money, but he also did the story and picked up a newspaper fees as well through my manager working with him. So I felt very abandoned, I felt very, very um whoa, I gotta be honest, I felt that somebody shafted me, he had shafted me, you came to my house, things weren’t going well for you, things were going very well for me in the football world and you came and you took all my money and you did the story, that was not nice, that was not nice.
Yeah, and I think some people who add a commentary to this um topic, I think they discount the context because the relationship with your brother wasn’t all great. Um I think I remember you saying something about you know, how he treat, he didn’t treat you that well and therefore, you know, if you take the example of like a husband and a wife in a relationship for example and you take the, I don’t know the worst things that they say to each other and you put them on the front of a paper or something that’s not going to look very good and you know, it’s a relationship is a, is a complicated thing. Um but the context of the question is just around if someone has to deal with that. Now, what would you advise they do? Um I would advise him to tread carefully because there are certain actions that your brother who is gay would make, which piss you off, Let me be very frank, they will piece you off and I think that you know, bearing in mind times have changed, I’m not gonna lie to you, if you’d have asked me this question seven years ago, I would have punched the hell out of you because that ain’t gonna go down because I didn’t even want to talk about Justin Justin my own brother.
No, I couldn’t accept that at all. It’s now we get a little bit more liberal and I look back and I see the situation, I mean having police officers knock on your door when your son is being baptized and then telling you that, so sorry to tell you but your brother has committed suicide, he’s taken his own life and we’d like you to come and identify the body, wow. For what reason? Justin? So I, you know, and I’m not going to shy away, I must have been part of that reason because I didn’t accept my brother and we were constantly fighting like yin and yang constantly. So I’m, I remember I was in uh Harrods store beautiful store in the west end and I was doing some shopping and I heard somebody go, hey Justin Justin that just that voice, oh man, I was cross, I looked around and up the conveyor belt.
I saw two gentlemen now, the two gentlemen came straight down to see me, I was with my girlfriend. Just chilling. You know, as we were. And he came and he touched my shoulder obviously thinking that I was just in my reaction was not good. That was not good at all. I became physical with a gentleman and you know, because of the fact that he was thinking I was just in and he couldn’t understand how I became so violent with him ending up with me going down to the police station and I realized that either I have to calm my temper or I have a problem and I shouldn’t have a problem. But when you don’t understand people and you’re not getting all of the information, it builds up and it builds up and it spirals and it spirals before it just explodes.
I had just exploded. And I found myself in the police headquarters and the poor man found himself in hospital. So you know, I look back and I say, could I have done it differently? Oh of course. But anything that you think about which you did five years, 10 years ago, you would have an option to do it differently because life has changed. Life has changed now. My daughter, there’s no way my daughter Amal would I accept opening a foundation for my brother who is gay, I would never have accepted that. But now she’s opened a wonderful foundation. She’s making money. She’s assisting people doing a great job and I’m a supporter and I don’t have to go around telling everybody, excuse me, I’m not gay, I’m john Fashanu bouquets of monkeys, who cares anymore, really. But before my total defense was go forward first I would see maybe five or six guys having a nice time enjoying themselves at a party with girlfriends.
I’ll go up and say by the way, excuse me, I’m john I’m not Justin no, I’m not just in would I need to defend myself all the time. Times have changed. Well, the next one is also, I think important for the benefit of others. And that is um what advice would you give to someone who is dealing with a suicide of someone close to them. What can you help them with them? You know, that’s tough, That is tough. Um I was walking down in new york and I was walking down the high street with one of my friends and gentlemen came straight to me right in my face and he said, john Fashanu, that’s all he recognized me. He wasn’t smiling. He said the day your brother committed suicide, I was there. I tried to back off a little bit to give myself some space. I thought he was gonna attack me. And he said exactly how my brother committed suicide.
Some people have come up and talk absolute rubbish and he said how he committed suicide. What he what a tragedy was and he said he was crying, he was now in tears and I realized that actually that particular gentleman had a relationship with my brother Justin then and I realized that you know, to stop these things as as upset as he was. I could see through him. This situation had still not got better. 14 years later, he was still mourning and because he saw me that light went on and he went this man, he might not have killed him physically, but psychologically this is the man who killed my boyfriend at the time. So I would say things have changed, times have changed. I’ve spent many times counseling talking to different people because I’m not gay doesn’t mean to say that I can’t lend an ear to help a situation what I try and do and what I would tell you people if you have a situation like that treat him or her just the same as you would your heterosexual brother or son or whoever it is because life is so short.
Look how Justin took his life such a short quick situation and for for somebody to cut their own wrists and then somebody to try to strangle themselves. They were calling out and the time that Justin was calling out, I wasn’t there for him, I wouldn’t listen to him. I wouldn’t take his calls. I was just thinking of myself, how will people think if my brother is gay, Oh my God, that’s been terrible. People will think of me and hate me. I wasn’t thinking of him. So I would say people don’t be selfish b******s. That’s what I was. I can only apologize. I can go back, but I can’t bring my brother back. Sometimes when I’m sitting at home, I laugh and I’m thinking some of the funny things he did because I’m not think of him as gay anymore. I can only think of the funny things. But yet my misunderstanding and not understanding him cost him his life. Well, that’s that’s not good.
So I would say people give them some time, give your Children, give your spouse’s give your brother your sister, whoever it might be. And you you you will get to know you will get that feeling. When you, when you start talking to your brother or sister, you will not need to ask, excuse me, are you gay? You won’t need to ask that. You will know the telepathy, the relationship that you have with somebody close to. You will often give you ideas and you will know that there’s something quite different here and they expect to be treated a little bit different. When I say they I don’t mean they put them all into one category. I’m saying people in whole who are slightly different patients, thank you for patience is a virtue. Thank you for answering the questions. And I think, um, I think other people will benefit from your experience. So I appreciate that. I have noticed in should we say, researching the topic that the journalists in general are critical, if you like.
Um and I’m interested to know how how you would deal with this and the context being that everyone’s on social media now mostly. Um and people tend to have a bit of anonymity anonymity around the fact that they can say things. So how how could you help people who are should we say getting criticized? Because you’ve been through that yourself? Are you saying people who are being criticized because that their sexual preference is different? Or are you what are you saying? Just in general more than specific about anything prior? Because I think that I’ve seen you say that if you’re if you’re a footballer, you can’t care what other people think of you. That’s one thing I’ve heard you topic speaking. Yeah. You know, if you are a footballer, if you’re somebody who’s trying to get to the top in the fact that you’re trying to get the top, you’re going to go through a lot of dead bodies whether you like it or not, there are always going to be haters.
I always say when you go into a room, if everybody likes you run, you go into a situation where the haters are there, The haters will always be there. We won the FA Cup, 1988 Liverpool against Wimbledon yet we still had haters and there were there were Wimbledon fans and there were still people who would tell us what we had done wrong that unfortunately is part of life to be successful and to try to go to that level of being success of having success. You need thick skin. If you really believe that you have got it no matter what it is, it might be an artist, you might be a singer, you might be a footballer. You might be just somebody who wants to stay at home and have a wonderful life. You have to have a thick skin because there’s always more people will say nasty things than people who will say good things.
And I think that’s that has got to be brought out because I noticed when people say oh fashion New, oh he’s a bully. He’s horrible. Yeah I agree that fashion is a horrible guy. But When there’s something good, look at this guy, you heard what happened, he he made 50 million. He made this this this so you’re not going to get them. You’re not it’s very difficult to get people if that’s the case who will accept you. That is the most important thing as you are, who will accept you as you are and you will accept them. And if you were to attempt to teach a young person mental toughness or a thick skin, what would you tell them? Let’s go through L. L. L first tattoo it on your wrist. What is L l l look, listen and learn there the three L’s of life. Once you’ve got those there we start mentally, you have to be strong.
The world is changing. Things are changing, comments are changing. I am myself. And I think let’s use an example, my son, my son is going everywhere and everywhere he goes when he gets onto the pitch, everybody says this guy is useless, why he got onto the pitch because his name is fashion and because now they want to see exactly the same as Fashion New and he can’t be exactly the same as his dad. Let’s say he’s useless. Get rid of him, but you can’t keep coming off that pitch crying because this one doesn’t like you and that one doesn’t like you and this one doesn’t like you, you’ve got to be yourself until the time you find somebody who will accept you being yourself, then you know, you’ve made it until then you’re gonna go from club to club to club to club. And that is the difficulty of life. Thank you for that. On the on the timeline of where we are, we’re approaching Gladiator. So yes, yes.
How does that come come about? And for reference as well, season one, episode one is actually on YouTube. So I did have a look at that. Were you nervous? Um Well let’s be honest, I think you get to a stage now where most of my life, I’ve been in publicity and I’ve had crowd members watching me, so that’s not a word which comes into my vocabulary nervous. No, it doesn’t. I think I’m excited, whoa, I’m excited, I just give you one of those, sorry guys, sometimes it just comes into and I just got to get it out, you know, I love the fact that we’re coming back, The Gladiators is coming back As I said before and as most of the viewers, you know me, I’m somebody who’s athletic, I like to be in with it if it’s fighting, I like to be in there in there getting in their gladiators was ideal for me. We had was 18 million viewers globally, which was amazing. Amazing.
Now the fact is who is going to be the presenter for Gladiators and the co presenter for Gladiators, That’s the interesting thing, I don’t think it’s going to be me this time. I think that it will be somebody who’s very strong because I mean I see some of the Gladiators this time, they are monsters. This is going to be absolutely incredible. But the viewing figures have dropped now, so you’re not going to be able to get 18 million people watching around the world because most people have got phones now, they’ve got so many different stations, they’ve got so many different things to do to go, so it’s going to be very, very interesting, but for sure for sure if they say big Fash, we’d like you Vinnie, a few of the others to come on gladiators. Oh, it would be an honour. We, we will go there. That’s for sure. And have a good laugh. Well, the other thing I said, I was going to ask you about was the, I’m a celebrity. Um, and the context being the, there was a video still on again on Youtube and it’s you facing your fear of heights and just wondering if you wanted to tell that story.
Oh wow. Yeah, I mean let’s put it this way. Fear. Any fear I like to conquer because that’s my personality. I have tried and I have tried and I have tried, I did a television show. Um that’s the show and I’m getting up high into heights. I lock up, I sees now mentally that’s something which you’ve got to be able to control because I’m always saying to yourself, self control is paramount. You must be able to have self control. But then when I go a little bit higher, little bit higher and you go to the top, that’s it, I’m out. It’s almost like I locked down my body just locks down and I can’t do anything at all. And that has always been one of my greatest fears. I can face somebody who’s got the ak 47 400 rounds. No problem. I’ll face that I can face somebody when we’re fighting maybe for the water to go into the water.
I can face that but height mm No I I just wither and go into it and it’s very very difficult. And in actual fact one of the shows that I did I couldn’t go any further because I just couldn’t go higher. He said okay now we want to see somebody is going to be taken up in the helicopter and they’re gonna be dropped into the sea. I said great man I’ll have that one. Yes I’ll have that one. First the helicopter started jumped in there. Yeah I was like a g I had my boots on, everything was great. Up we go it’s getting a bit higher. You’re getting a bit higher. Suddenly I didn’t want to say anything because I got the cameras in my face, four cameras in my face. I got some of the guys all in the helicopter, are you ready? Mr Fash are you ready? I was holding onto the side, I couldn’t move, I just my hand locked and now the one of the guys who is with me, he’s trying to get my arm off the pole because I just can’t take it off and I’m looking at it, I’m going God I’m gonna die, jesus, I don’t mind dying but this is not the way I thought I would die, spare me jesus.
Next thing I know it pushed me as I’m going down. I went straight into the water straight into the water. Ice cold. And I remember my swimming is nothing I cannot swim. So I had a serious situation there because I’ve now got a float. Luckily I had a you know, what do you call those floaters on your body so you don’t sink so you don’t go down? So yeah, safety best. That was my that was my savior. And I knew I’m out of the show. I knew that my performance was so pathetic there. I knew I was out of the show and within what must have been six hours they told me that that’s it. You’re off, you’re out of the show. So anything to do with Heights is my weak spot. Well, thank you for sharing that. Everyone has their kryptonite, right? Oh, you believe it? Would you like to do a quick fire to end the show?
A quick what quick fire like. Quick questions pick answers. Yes, You love to love to Great! How were you discovered to play for Norwich? Oh, my brother! Justin greedy b*****d as he was. I love him! But greedy b*****d! He said, let’s bring john to Norwich City while he was already at Norwich City and let my brother be a professional footballer. An apprentice. So I came on I got £20,000 per month as I was signing. I now looked at the contract and I realized that the 20,000 had now been changed and it was now 15,000. It was then that I realized that my brother was taking 5000 and that was the only reason why he bloody well be there because he wanted his money. So greedy b*****d. Justin love you to death. But it didn’t work after a period of time I was useless. Those listening out there, I couldn’t, I had two left feet, I couldn’t kick the ball.
I didn’t understand what was going on. But slowly football is a game that you just literally maneuver and slowly you start to learn these things. Never play with players who are younger than yourself. Why? Because when you’re playing with players who are younger than yourself and inexperienced as yourself, you learn nothing. Go in with the boys who are 2022, 23, 24 because you either die or you learn quite simple. Next one. What do people get wrong about you? Um, what do people get wrong? I think that when people come up to me and say you’re a good looking b*****d, women love you. They get that wrong. What was your favorite goal? Oh come on, come on. Whoa. Many of those, I Think that my favorite number one Liverpool keep on saying bloody Liverpool. Don’t know why Bruce Grobbelaar those of you.
You remember Bruce Grobbelaar, great goalkeeper, got the Ball held off one player punched the other player as he was going by and then for 35 yards. Just a chip. Beautiful chip executed with Provisions. Beautiful, beautiful 35 yards. That was goal of the season. That’s the best goal I ever scored. Thought it might be that or the Swindon one. Oh, okay, that was that was another one like that. Yes, that’s another one. Yeah, but Swindon a Swindon Liverpool, bloody Liverpool, slight difference. What are you doing at the moment, john uh as little as possible. Let me answer that one. Okay, what I’m doing at the moment is I’m building for my sports academy. I have a beautiful sports academy in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria on the 27th. I am guest of honor at my club. I love dearly Wimbledon plow Lane.
I’m going to plow lane with my kids and I’ll be there with all of the kids and all of the kids. I’m getting carried away now, there’s not too many, but I’ll be there and I’m going to say hello to everybody. Maybe I’ll kick off the match, but I’m gonna go go back to plow Lane and see some of my friends and you know, that’s where I got the supporters. The supporters have been fantastic. They’ve supported me all these years and you know, they were the best ever because of course that’s where we won the F A Cup 88. So I’m looking forward to that. Then from there, I will go to Aston Villa and Stephen, what’s his name? Aston Villa manager steven, Gerrard used to be my arch enemy when he was playing for Liverpool now a good friend. I’ll be going to see Stephen at Aston Villa, my old club again. Last one. What does success mean to you? What does success mean to me?
Success mean to me is a sleepless night, a sleepless night. That’s what it is when you get in that bed and you’ve got anxiety, you’ve got other issues coming up because if you’re a professional, those things are something major to you. If you’re not a professional you wouldn’t be thinking like that. But when you’re a professional, even your relationship, what did I do wrong to the wife? What did I do wrong to the girlfriend did I make? No, that is what success is when you’ve got peace of mind and you can come in and you’ve lost a match or you want a match but you know you’ve given your all and you can lay on your bed and you can say yeah oh what a lovely day. I’m going to sleep and you wake up seven o’clock eight o’clock in the morning. That’s that’s it. If people want to connect with you or follow you, where do they go? Um they go to uh you know, I’m asking one of my officers official, the official john Fashanu very simple.
The official John Fashanu, what was the other one? And Facebook John Fashanu at Facebook or John Fashanu Facebook. That’s Instagram. Sorry, that’s Instagram. Yeah, there’s a couple of Instagram profiles but I think you’re active on both I think, aren’t you? Yes. Yes. Yes I am. Yes. Well I appreciate you sharing today, it was intense at moments but you’re always telling the truth and being real so I appreciate that and being a great guest, so John thank you very much. Thank you very much. And remember listeners you know most of the time being real is fine. Being truthful is fine. Say it as you see it. Sometimes you might say it and as I say it, I didn’t bloody well happened but that’s what you saw and that’s what makes it either right or wrong. So say it as it happens I think that’s a good. Another mental toughness tip there, yeah? Yeah, oh yes, they never stop. They never stop. Thanks Fash. Thanks guys, see you again. I’ll be back.