Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here, by Anthony Clavane


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The Independent Culture

As owners and administrators, Jews have a significant presence in English football, from Roman Abramovich to David Bernstein, the FA chairman who succeeded another Jew, Lord Triesman. And there is no shortage of Jewish fans. But where are the players?

In this thought-provoking, absorbing exploration of what he terms "English football's forgotten tribe", Anthony Clavane reminds us there have been notable homegrown footballers of the faith, including the QPR tough-nut Mark Lazarus, but points to historic patterns of Jewish thinking, hinted at in the title, as one reason for the relative paucity. Immigrants who wished to stay close to their religious roots frowned on a game played mainly on the Sabbath, yet others who wished to assimilate into their new society had a desire "to be more English than the English" but felt football was too precarious a way to make a living.

Anti-semitism and social discrimination were factors; many players anglicised their names or kept schtum about their ethnicity.

Clavane, whose first book, Promised Land, was a brilliantly evocative account of his love of Leeds United, argues that "being a Good Sportsman and a Good Jew are not incompatible aspirations, and Englishness and Jewishness are not mutually contradictory". Amen to that.

Published in hardback by Quercus, £20