A FORMER Woodmill High School pupil has made Japanese American football history by becoming the first European to play professionally in the country.

Joe Marton, who also attended Touch Primary, is one of 40 import players to play in the country’s top league, all of whom are from the United States – except for him.

The 25-year-old (pictured wearing number 58) was signed by the Deers, a team based in Chofu, a city within the Tokyo metropolis.

Joe, whose parents and brother still live in the city, first found his love for the sport on the astroturf pitches at Dunfermline High in 2013, having attended a trial with West Fife Saints, who were brought under the banner of Dunfermline Kings American Football Club subsequently.

“I first got introduced to the sport through the social media app, Vine, back in the early 2010s,” Joe explained.

“I saw these short clips of NFL and college football games, where players were making these incredible catches and hard tackles. I loved those videos and always thought it would be so cool to be in one of them.

“One day I was watching clips online and decided to Google ‘American football near me”, and found a five-a side, under-17 league based in West Fife and Edinburgh called TouchDown UK.

“I contacted them and it so happened that they were starting a new team in Dunfermline, the ‘West Fife Saints’. I came down to a trial and instantly fell in love with the sport.”

From there, Joe progressed to play for East Kilbride Pirates in the BAFA (British American Football Association) League, before moving to Bristol in 2015 to SGS Pride American Football Academy.

Although he tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and returned to Dunfermline, Joe received a call during COVID to return south of the border and rejoin his old team.

Following knee surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process, Joe began emailing teams in Japan, which he says is “the best league on earth outside North America”, and was signed by the Deers.

“I chose Japan for two reasons. My wife is Japanese and it’s the only league outside of the CFL (Canadian Football League) and NFL that pays a high enough salary that I could justify giving up a ‘normal job’ to become a pro player,” he said.

“Each team in Japan is allowed a maximum of four foreign players, and only the foreign players can be paid. My Japanese team-mates are all amateur, despite me learning things from them often due to the difference in level of play between Japan and the UK.

“I am the first European to ever play professionally in Japan. As you can imagine, it’s been quite a learning curve but, regardless of how I’m performing in this particular season, I am a professional athlete, and I still can’t believe it.”