Who said there are no Jewish pro footballers?
IT HAS taken 25 years for a professional Jewish Football League player to break through — so meet Joe Jacobson, proof that this community does not stop at owning clubs and trading players.
Currently playing as a left-back on loan at Bristol Rovers from Cardiff City, he has played five times for Wales at Under-21 level.
Having signed a professional contract with his home town side in July 2006, he made his league debut in Cardiff ’s Championship defeat at home to Norwich City three months earlier and made his first start in August 2006 in the Bluebirds’ defeat at home to League Two side Barnet in the Football League Cup. Jacobson was rewarded for an eyecatching performance by being voted man of the match by the local press.
“I know there are a lot of guys at youth level playing, but as I didn’t think I would be the only one out there,” Jacobson said.
The 20-year-old reflected on the dedication needed to make it as a pro. “Of course, being professional, I always had the support of my parents, but along the way I had to make a lot of sacrifices, and one of the biggest was my education. I suppose that’s a worry for other parents, because when you start playing football you are taking a big risk, and, in some cases, the risk doesn’t always pay off.”
Jacobson, who is single, has already played in front of crowds of 30,000plus, having represented Great Britain at the 2001 Maccabiah Games when he was 14. But he admits his football has got in the way of his ability to practise his faith, although he keeps kosher at home. “It’s hard, you do as much as you can, but it’s difficult when you have to play and train so much,” he said. “My family still do a lot, and so do I whenever I get a chance.”
Others hoping to follow in Jacobson’s steps in showing that Jews can make it in the professional game include Charlton Athletic youngster Jonathan Kurrant, Rangers midfielder Dean Furman, Leyton Orient striker Adam Bolle, Dagenham & Redbridge’s Sam Sloma, Stevenage Borough’s Paul Hakim and Oxford United midfielder Josh Kennet.
Before Jacobson, there was former Crystal Palace and Manchester City midfielder Barry Silkman, who shared his view on the future of Jewish footballers: “I just think the way Jewish youths are brought up has a lot to do with why we don’t get many professional Jewish footballers. My parents were football mad and my mum took me to games nearly every week,” he said.
Joe Jacobson joins Bristol Rovers, kick-starting a rare professional career