In the fall of 2014, Jacob Braham was the anchor in goal for a Yorktown boys soccer team that marched its way to the Section 1 Class A final. On the heels of his superb performance and with dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper, Braham left Yorktown midway through his senior year to play for D.C. United’s U-18 team. After spending a year in D.C., Braham got the opportunity to play overseas in Portugal, and he ran with it. Now, after a long two-year journey that has taken him around the world, Braham has decided to come back to the U.S., committing to play Division I soccer at UNC Wilmington this fall.
In your senior season at Yorktown in 2014, you were a star goalkeeper down the stretch, leading the No. 11 seed Huskers to the Section 1 Class A final. Looking back, what was that experience like for you and your team, and what did it mean for Yorktown soccer?
It was an incredible experience and one that I will certainly remember the rest of my life. Unfortunately, we came up a bit short; however, I think we were the start of a bright future for Yorktown soccer.
Almost immediately after that magical run, you relocated to Washington D.C. in January of 2015, leaving your school and home to play for the U-18 D.C. United team. How did you decide to make that difficult transition?
Although it was difficult to leave my family and friends, especially midway through my senior year in high school, it was a decision that I felt I needed to make in order to obtain my ultimate goal of becoming a professional goalkeeper.
What did you learn from your time in D.C.? What was the level of play like compared to high school and what was it like to move cities and schools halfway through your senior year?
Living in D.C. was an amazing experience, although there was an initial adjustment phase as I was living on my own for the first time. However, this truly taught me to become fully independent. In terms of the soccer, the speed of play was quicker and the technical/tactical abilities of the players were much higher than at the high school level.
But D.C. wasn’t enough for you. In January 2016, you moved to Portugal to play with U-19 SC União Torreense. How did you get this opportunity, and was it a tough decision to make?
The opportunity to play with Torreense came about via a former Portuguese footballer, and after watching a few highlight clips I was invited over to train with the club in January. It was a difficult decision because unlike living in D.C. there would be no opportunity for me to visit my family at any time over those six months.
Still only 18-years old, what was it like to move to Portugal alone and have to adjust to a whole new culture? What was the level of play like, especially compared to high school and U.S. club level?
Moving to Portugal was initially rather difficult. I had moved to Portugal without knowing any of the language and had trouble communicating with my roommate from Brazil, the coaching staff and the other teammates. The level of play was a lot more intense than U.S. football as these players were playing for contracts.
What was the best part of moving to Portugal? The worst part? Any special moments that stick out?
Besides the obvious answer of the football, the best part of Portugal was exploring Lisbon on days off and visiting its beautiful beaches. The worst part would probably be the initial difficulty I had transitioning and learning the language. The best moment would have to be traveling to Maderia with the club to play Nacional (Cristiano Ronaldo’s first club) and earning ‘Man of the Match.’ Another one of my favorite moments was traveling to Benfica’s training facilities to play against their U19’s for a match.
This fall, you will be playing Division I soccer at UNC Wilmington. Why did you decide on coming back to the U.S. to play in college, and why did you choose UNC Wilmington?
UNC Wilmington was a fairly easy choice as I intend to major in marine biology and they have an excellent program. Additionally, the men’s soccer program is a top-25 Division I program and has an excellent reputation for producing professional goalkeepers.
Why did you choose marine biology?
I plan on majoring in marine biology because I have always been interested in marine life and would like to work outside.
What are your future goals? Will you definitely be pursuing a professional soccer career?
My future goals are to earn my degree from UNC Wilmington and hopefully become a professional goalkeeper.
Looking back on this crazy two-year journey, what are your thoughts? What have you learned?
I have learned to become independent and be able to adjust to any new situation, no matter how difficult.
If you could go back to 16-year-old Jacob Braham and give him some advice, what would you say?
I would tell myself to be confident in your decisions from the start. Do not let doubt enter my mind because I have a dream and am doing everything in my power to achieve it.