New Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano believes his arrival at the club can help earn him a recall to the Israeli national squad.
The 26-year-old has already won ten full caps and played throughout Israel’s 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign in which they were grouped with, among others, Belgium and Wales.
However, he was left out of new coach Elisha Levy’s first squad for May’s friendly against Serbia but now he hopes turning out in the Scottish Championship will see him return to the international stage as Israel bid to make the World Cup finals even though they have Spain and Italy in their qualifying group.
Revealing he turned down offers from both his homeland and elsewhere in Europe to become Neil Lennon’s third signing of the season, Marciano said Hibs’ facilities and the club’s ambitions persuaded him to head for Edinburgh.
Marciano clinched a season-long deal from Israeli club SC Ashdod and is awaiting a work permit after which he will bring his wife Shelly, whom he married in June, to the Capital where he’s looking forward to competing with Ross Laidlaw and Otso Virtanen for the gloves.
He said: “It’s a great feeling to be here and to meet my new team-mates. I am going to work hard and do my very best for the club. My main goal is to work hard and be the No.1.”
Marciano is the eighth Israeli to play in Scottish football and Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton helped sell the move to him. He said: “Nir is also from Ashdod and we will meet up when we can. He told me about Scotland and so did my agent Dudu Dahan.”
Marciano, who is of Spanish and Moroccan descent, spent last season on loan at Belgian side Royal Excel Mouscron, who are owned by Israeli agent Pini Zahavi, but he played only six games for them, having had to withdraw from the squad for a cup game due to it clashing with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.
He told the Jewish Telegraph: “It was my first club in Europe, but it was not so good for me. They brought another goalkeeper in and he played well, but that’s football and you have to take the negatives and the positives.
“I was not called up to the last [Israeli] squad because I had not been playing, but hopefully, if I become No.1 at Hibs, I believe I will be back. We went very close in getting to Euro 2016. We had a difficult group with Belgium and Wales who both did very well at the Euros.”
Marciano’s first question when he arrived at East Mains was whether kosher food would be available but he was assured that wouldn’t be a problem. He said: “I am close to my religion and would like to meet Jewish people here.”