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Alex Scott delves into Jewish heritage

Former football player Alex Scott MBE explored her Jewish ancestry in a recent instalment of the BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. Now a presenter and pundit, Scott is an eminent figure in British media and has broken down several barriers for females in society.

Born and bred in East London, the ex-Arsenal and England star recently tapped into her Jewish roots in the 18th season of the BBC series which explores celebrities‘ ancestry and family history.

In her episode on the show Scott visited Sandys Row Synagogue, the oldest Ashkenazi shul in London, as she discovered that her great-grandfather – her mum’s granddad – Philip Gittleson and his parents Morris and Dora had fled from Zagare, Lithuania in the early 20th century in light of anti-Semitic pogroms.

These violent and murderous pogroms resulted in mass immigration amongst the Jewish population away from Russia and surrounding territories, and by the 1930s a plethora of Jewish refugees had settled in London’s East End.

The footballer-turned-presenter learned that her Jewish great-granddad Philip was involved in the Battle of Cable Street in October 1936, against the British Union of Fascists (BUF) led by Oswald Mosley.

Scott said she felt “a sense of pride to know my family went through that … To understand my mum’s family were a part of that is something special”.

Scott also discovered Jamaican heritage through her paternal ancestry, and earlier this year she revealed that her father abandoned her mum, brother and herself when she was seven and that he left them with nothing.

Over the years Scott has remained close with her single (part-Jewish) mother, Carol McKee.

Scott was signed to the Arsenal Academy aged just eight, and would go on to spend the bulk of her playing career at the North London club, amassing more than 150 appearances for the Gunners across three spells with the club. At the age of 22 Scott scored in the Final of the 2007 UEFA Women's Cup, a stunning effort in stoppage time against Swedish side Umeå as Arsenal became the first British club to triumph in the competition.

Scott was appointed captain of Arsenal Ladies in 2014, by which time the progressive right-back had celebrated 6 Women's League titles and 7 Women's FA Cup crowns with the club. As skipper Scott added a further FA Cup success to her prolific collection.

Scott represented her nation at the 2012 London Olympics in her home city where Team GB reached the Quarter-finals but crashed out to Canada. She also played at three FIFA Women's World Cups, the last being in 2015 when England claimed the bronze medal after defeating Germany in the third-place playoff.

In all Scott won 140 caps for England, netting 12 goals as a Lioness, and to date is the 4th-most capped player for the England Women's team.

Over the years Scott has been incredibly influential in creating awareness for women's football and in 2011 she launched an academy for female footballers aged 16-19 – ‘The Alex Scott Academy' – in partnership with Puma. The academy was the first of its kind as Scott, aged 26 at the time, strived to integrate women's football as a mainstream sport.

Scott was awarded an MBE as part of the New Years honours list in 2017 for her “outstanding contributions to women's football”, before she hung up her boots later that year.

She swapped football boots for dancing shoes, appearing on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing in 2019 where she and partner Neil Jones landed a 5th-place finish.

Scott was also inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2019, by which time she had been retired for two years and working as a pundit for BBC and Sky.

Scott has presented for BBC for most of her post-playing career, debuting on camera at the 2018 men’s World Cup alongside Alan Shearer, and has frequently co-presented the Match of the Day programme.

In May this year she was named the new host of BBC show Football Focus – becoming the first female lead presenter of the show.

September saw Scott as the recipient of an honourary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire for her services to sport, and the following month she was recognised amongst Britain's most influential black footballers.

During the month of her 37th birthday Scott was the cover star for Women’s Health magazine and also became the first female broadcast voice in the EA Sports video game FIFA 22, with Scott portraying the pitchside reporter in the latest edition of the EA collection.

Scott closed out October as she hosted the draw ceremony for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Finals in Manchester.

Alex Scott MBE continues to defy societal norms concerning gender roles and she is perhaps the single-most contributor to the development of women’s football, which has persistently grown across the globe over the course of the last decade.

Arsenal through and through: Alex Scott, circa 1996

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