English Soccer: Bristol Rovers' Joe Jacobson is one-of-a-kind

Becomes the first British-born Jew to play in a British professional soccer league in over 25 years.

bristol rovers (photo credit: )
bristol rovers
(photo credit: )
Joe Jacobson has helped make history for the British Jewish community. He became the first British-born Jew to play in a British professional soccer league in almost 20 years. Jacobson, who grew up in Cardiff, Wales, a town with a small Jewish community, made his debut April 22, 2006, when he subbed in for his hometown Cardiff Bluebirds in their League Championship defeat to Norwich City. Jacobson was back with Cardiff on August 22, 2006, making his first start at left back. While Cardiff was defeated by Barnet, Jacobson was named the Man of the Match by local papers. After those matches, Jacobson was placed on loan to Accrington Stanley in November. He then moved in February to Bristol Rovers. Both teams compete in League Two, and allowed Jacobson to gain valuable first-team experience. He has had a relatively quiet season with Bristol, with no goals in five appearances. Jacobson credits the small Jewish community in Wales as a possible reason for his ability to become the first Jew in the British professional leagues. In England, where there is a larger Jewish community, there are typically soccer leagues for Jews, so most Jews do not become integrated in the general youth soccer programs that feed into the professional leagues. In Wales, though, Jacobson had no choice but to turn to the local club. While Jacobson has made history for British-born Jews, he is far from the only Jew in the league. British soccer has seen the arrival of a number of popular Israeli players including Tal Ben-Haim (Bolton), Idan Tal (Bolton), Yossi Benayoun (West Ham), and Ben Sahar (Chelsea). In addition, there are several promising British Jews coming through the ranks of youth soccer who could join Jacobson soon. Jacobson downplays the Jewish aspect. "I just get on with my football, and don't think about the religious side of it too much," he told the Western Mail.