Ofir Marciano had to sit an English test as part of the drawn-out process to allow him to move from Israel to Edinburgh – but now the new Hibs goalkeeper admits he’ll have to “learn Scottish”.
For, he revealed, the language spoken within the Easter Road dressing room is different to the English he knows as he implores his new team-mates to speak a little bit slower to allow him to understand what is being said.
Joking that striker Jason Cummings wouldn’t have passed the English test he was required to take as he waited for the necessary paperwork to be completed after agreeing a season-long loan deal with Neil Lennon’s side, the 26-year-old said: “The English they speak here is different to the test.
“I am trying to learn Scottish, but I have only been here two weeks. I am sure as the months pass I am going to pick up everything.”
Admitting he’d been frustrated at the length of time it took to clear the red tape, Marciano insisted he’s now ready to make up for lost time having had his first taste of Scottish football in the “mini derby” against Hearts on Tuesday afternoon.
He said: “I knew I had to get a work permit and I knew there were some procedures, but I didn’t know what they were. But the club knew everything and they did it very well. It was still a big relief, though, when I was told everything was okay. I’m happy it is done and now it is time to show it has been worth it.”
In addition to proving his competence in English – he’s word perfect by the way – Marciano was also required to return to Belgium, where he had spent last season on loan from Israeli club Ashdod, meaning a few days in Brussels as a visa was sorted out with the British Embassy there.
The ten-times capped goalkeeper – he played in Israel’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns including games against Wales and Belgium – said: “It has been frustrating for sure, but I think the most important thing was we knew what we needed to pass through it so that helped me take it in the best way I could.
“It’s been a long wait, but eventually we did it. This is the time to start playing and bring some good performances to the club.”
Marciano revealed he’d initially harboured “suspicions” when he first heard of Hibs’ offer, but Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton, a former team-mate at Ashdod, soon persuaded him he would be making the right move.
He said: “Nir actually recommended that I come. The minute I told him it was Hibs who had made the offer, he said, ‘You have to take this chance to test yourself in British football,’
“He told me this was a very good club to start at. I would have all the things I needed to become a better player.”
And, Marciano insisted, Bitton had been true to his word, saying: “First of all you have to come here to see the facilities, the fans, the stadium. This is a big, big club. I think this is a good decision for me to come here and show my abilities.
“I’m impressed with the professionalism of this club, how it handles everything. The facilities are great, it gives you every chance to improve your ability. The stadium is amazing, the fans are amazing too and I can’t wait to play in front of them.”
While Bitton’s advice played a part in his decision so, too, did the fact that his agent Dudu Dahan had worked closely in the past with Lennon in bringing not only Bitton but Beram Kayal and Efe Ambrose to Celtic when the former Northern Ireland internationalist was manager there.
He said: “Dudu knows Neil Lennon so he told me everything. And when we arrived in Edinburgh we met him and discussed things. He told me his ambitions for the club and I was sold right away. It gives me confidence that I know the coach. I know how he is, that he is a good coach. And I hope that together we can make myself better and the team better.”
Marciano accepted he’ll have to adapt to a different style of play and although he perhaps doesn’t know too much about the teams he will be facing in the Championship, he insisted he’ll be well prepared before every game.
He said: “I think what is different here is the tempo. It’s very intense, it’s very fast. You have a lot of attacks and the game is very high tempo. This is British football – but when I played in Belgium I think it was similar. You need to play strong and fast, it is almost the same.”
Asked specifically what he knows about Morton, against whom he’ll make his debut this afternoon, Marciano again showed his sense of humour in saying: “I can’t tell you all the secrets I know,” before adding: “As a professional you have to know everything about your rivals.
“We have gone over everything and I will be prepared for every match. I will know what I need to do and what to expect from my rivals. Every game will be a new adventure for me, a new experience, but I am looking forward to starting and doing my best for the club.”