Among the obstacles Ofir Marciano had to clear in order to move to Britain and join Hibernian, was an English test. But, having come through that with flying colours, he is now having to master the very unique dialect of certain individuals who share the Easter Road dressing room with him.
“The English they speak here is different to the test! They need to talk a little bit slower for me but it’s ok,” he explained. “I hear Jason [Cummings] maybe wouldn’t pass my English test but I like this guy, he is a good boy and 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!”
When it comes to the footballing ambitions, nothing has been lost in translation. The 26-year-old Israeli knows he has arrived at a club harbouring lofty intentions. The league title is the target as they seek to guarantee progress back into the top tier in time for next season and Marciano is keen to lend a hand.
In the squad for this afternoon’s match against Morton, the goalkeeper is desperate to get some first-team involvement after an outing for the Under-20s in midweek.
“My ambition first of all is just to win on Saturday, I want to take things step by step, I am not thinking too far ahead.”
Lured to Leith early this month, with terms agreed, the club and player had to wait until the authorities were satisfied and a work permit was issued. “It has been a long wait but eventually we did it. I am happy that the club did everything it could so I could be able to play. This is the time to start playing and bring some good performances to the club.
“It has been frustrating, for sure. But we did it together and the club helped me. I think the most important thing was we knew what we needed to pass through. So that helped me take it in the best way I could take it. It’s over now, so it’s ok.
“First of all I had to take an English test. I also had to go out of the country, to Belgium, last week. There is some procedure where you have to live in the UK for a number of days and come back in again. I had an appointment with the UK Embassy [in Belgium] to get my visa, and then I had to wait for my passport to come back with my visa. I knew I had to get a work permit and I knew there were some procedures but I didn’t know what the procedures were. But the club knew everything and they did it very well.
“It was still a big relief when I was told everything was ok. I am happy it is done and now this is my time to show it has been worth it.
“It is a big, big club. And I think this is a good decision for me to come here and show my abilities and I can’t wait to play in front of these great fans. I’m impressed with the professionalism of this club, how it handles everything.”
But there were reservations when the initial approach came in. However, he says it was Celtic’s Nir Bitton who sold him on the move. The pair have grown up together. Raised nearby, their careers overlapped as they worked their way through the age groups and they are now international colleagues, where Marciano says he has experienced all his biggest games as Israel took on the likes of Belgium, Wales and Bosnia.
“Nir actually recommended that I come. I had suspicions at the start when I got the offer. But 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 good club to start at, I would have all the things I needed to become a better player.”
Having met with manager Neil Lennon, the keeper says it was a fairly easy decision to sign on in Leith. “Dudu, my agent, knows Neil Lennon so he told me everything. And when we arrived in Edinburgh we met him and discussed things and he told me his ambitions for the club. I was sold on that right away.”
With Israel set to face Italy next month, the hope is that some swift action for Hibs will see him earn another international call-up, but first he is focusing on Morton.
“I can’t tell you all the secrets I know. But, 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.
“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, fast, and it is almost the same.”