Martin Boyle: Former Hibs forward on how life is very different in Saudi Arabia
Just more than a month after moving to Saudi Arabia, Martin Boyle has tasted victory just once, meaning his new club, Al Faisaly, are in a relegation battle.
He misses family and friends, “and I know that they miss me too, which is nice”, and he has no regrets about moving on but Hibs fans will be please to hear him say: “If I get the chance to go back one day then I would jump at it.”
The former Hibs forward has settled into life in Harmah City off the pitch, even if things haven’t exactly gone to plan on it.
Poor results has led to upheaval, with Daniel Ramos, the manager who signed him, having been axed in late February and replaced by the former Greek defender Marinos Ouzounidis.
However, discussing life on the field and off it, Boyle sounds content. “You know me, I’m always happy”, the 28 year-old says.
The move was a major decision. One he is being very well compensated for, but tough nonetheless.
Wife Rachael has stayed behind in Edinburgh to continue her playing career for Hibs and look after their young daughter Amelia.
There were hours and hours, days and days of soul-searching as husband and wife decided what was best for their family.
“I probably can’t really describe just how hard it was, if I’m being honest with you,” admits Boyle.
“Rachael will never officially move over here, which was obviously another hard decision for us to make.
“Because we have a lot of family there, she has a lot of support and she enjoys her football and Amelia has just started nursery. It took her a few months to settle in, but now she is really enjoying it and making new friends, which is good.
"With the Covid situation, Amelia didn’t have the opportunity to have a lot of friends or go to parties etc before so I think it would be selfish of us – of me – to take that away from her.
“In this day and age we have the opportunity to FaceTime. It means I am always in touch and the time difference isn’t bad. I just have to brave it up and get on with it, but that has been easier because everyone here has been so friendly.
“But it wasn’t just a financial decision. I had to consider that side of it as well because it’s not often these things come around for someone from where I came from, but it was about going on to a new chapter and a new adventure as well. I’m quite an adventurous guy.
“I have always said to Rachael and my family that I would like to play overseas and experience different cultures and stuff like that.
“Thankfully this came up and we are a big club out here, the facilities are really good, the city is nice and everything is brilliant. I have settled in well. But if I get the chance to go back one day then I would jump at it.”
His new team-mates, who are predominantly home-based players or Brazilians, have had more than a few chuckles at his expense as he adapts to a completely different way of life, new schedules and an altogether different climate.
“I barely see daylight. My sleeping schedule is very different. I am going to sleep at 4 or 5 in the morning, waking up at 2 or three to train at night so by the time I wake up the day is gone, which is quite crazy.
“But it is just the way they live over here in terms of praying and things like that, the heat and the fact that they eat later than us. It was just a case of accepting that and getting used to it. But it’s not too bad.
“Because of the heat, most of the games are at night and in terms of praying, they will either pray before or after training and there is always a plan in place so they don’t miss it.
“They pray at least six times a day so for away games they have to stop the bus! But that’s all right. At the end of the day, it is their traditions, their religion and way of life and you have to respect that.
“It is quite interesting to be about it. It is completely different compared with Scotland but, yeah, I’m really enjoying it.”
The heat also impacts on the style of football, with the emphasis on technique and working the ball.
“It is nowhere near as fast as Scottish football, but I’m getting used to it. We still have loads of games left and we are still in a position where we can climb that table and we have a good team spirit.”