Fashanu says abuse affected his game

FEW FOOTBALL fans are foolish enough to make racist taunts to the face of Wimbledon Football Club's John Fashanu, writes David Connett.

'Fash the Bash' is celebrated as much for his physically committed style of play as for being articulate off the pitch. But Fashanu admitted yesterday that he has been intimidated when racist fans find their voices when safely hidden in the crowd.

'There have been matches when I have only gone from penalty box to penalty box and stayed away from the touchlines to avoid the abuse,' he said. Normally he would cover all the pitch in search of goal-scoring opportunities. He said he could not remember the last time he took a member of his family or friends to a game for fear of them being subjected to insults.

Fashanu and Paul Elliott, the Chelsea defender, told how abuse ranged from swearing, spitting and monkey impersonations to racist chants and bananas being thrown on to the pitch. Fashanu said he ignored most comments but did react when subjected to a volley of abuse from three young boys at Everton last season.

'I was coming off the pitch when I got a lot of abuse. When I turned round I saw they were only about seven or eight years old. It was the first time in many, many years that I reacted to abuse they were shouting at me.'

He was particularly disturbed because a black youngster was standing with them although not taking part in the abuse. 'That was it. I called the police and said I wanted to report it,' he said. A few weeks later the police asked him if he wanted to press charges but Fashanu said his only concern was to make sure the police spoke to the youths and their parents.

Fashanu said he found the abuse got worse when Wimbledon played teams from the north of England. Paul Elliott said he thought the situation had improved as more and more black players impressed crowds with their abilities. The success of black players in the national teams was also contributing.

(Photograph omitted)