Hibs' Emiliano Marcondes is not your average footballer: tough childhood, lion tattoo, studying for degree and Easter Road future

In a wide-ranging interview, Hibs’ on-loan Bournemouth playmaker discusses his family life, his studies on game, player shares and his future

Amid the sound and fury of Tynecastle, as the missiles rained down, a shot of love sent heavenwards. Emiliano Marcondes picked his spot with the ball before locating some calm amid the bedlam.

He has long since found the ability to forgive. Now when he scores, particularly special goals like the one that put Hibs ahead in the Edinburgh derby two Wednesday evenings ago, he pulls up the left sleeve of his shirt to reveal a tattoo of a lion’s head, whose eyes are blazing, that is etched into his arm. He places it in front of his own eyes and feels a connection to his Brazilian mother who he knows fought extremely challenging odds before she died 12 years ago, when he was only 17.

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"My mum is a Leo, that’s why I have it,” he explains. “It shows no fear and courage. She had to go to Denmark to give birth and raise two kids in Denmark. She was always very extroverted and had the bravery to do crazy things, and I got that tattoo to signify not fearing anyone or anything. It comes out sometimes, not always. But for the right occasion.... And I felt that was the right occasion. It could be quite intimidating, scoring at the Hearts end.” In the lion’s den? “Yes, but I was the lion that day.”

Hibs' Emiliano Marcondes celebrates after making it 1-0 against Hearts at Tynecastle last month.Hibs' Emiliano Marcondes celebrates after making it 1-0 against Hearts at Tynecastle last month.
Hibs' Emiliano Marcondes celebrates after making it 1-0 against Hearts at Tynecastle last month.

A fuggy, windowless room at the Hibernian Training Centre is not perhaps the ideal setting to have the privilege of an hour in Marcondes' company. Although he has the obligatory sleeve tattoo, artwork he himself designed, he is not your average footballer. His abundant skills quota sets him apart, as does an ability to discuss a diverse range of interests away from the game in his third language.

Even the normally straightforward matter of what to have on the back of his shirt is a complicated drama for someone whose full name is Emiliano Marcondes Camargo Hansen.

At FC Nordsjaelland, the Danish club where he made his senior breakthrough, he switched from Marcondes to Camargo, because his Brazilian family members preferred it. His Danish father, however, wanted Hansen and so he eventually opted for Emiliano, "because you don't choose between family". Remember the name. Hibs fans will, even though their acquaintance could be brief.

"Love the light for it shows you the way" reads one line of text on his arm. "It is a quote from my mum," Marcondes explains. "She did not say exactly that. But something similar. Remember the bad times, because that shows you where you want to go. Football was a way out for me. It was the light out of the darkness.”

Emiliano Marcondes joined Hibs on loan from Bournemouth in January and is already a big hit with the club's fans.Emiliano Marcondes joined Hibs on loan from Bournemouth in January and is already a big hit with the club's fans.
Emiliano Marcondes joined Hibs on loan from Bournemouth in January and is already a big hit with the club's fans.

Marcondes experienced a somewhat rackety childhood in Hvidovre, a town within the suburbs of Copenhagen. His parents divorced and his mother returned to Brazil when he was eight, which meant his father, 'Salsa' Kim as he is known, had to care for Emiliano and elder brother Camillo. It was not as it reads. His mother, Marilia, was ill. Marcondes understands that now. His dad was 39 when Marcondes, who turns 29 today, was born. He recognises the sacrifices his father made when the responsibility fell more heavily on him and he was forced to put his main passion, playing bass and sometimes drums in a South American band, on hold.

"He had to do three jobs at some points to get food on the table and to provide for me and my brother," recalls Marcondes. "I did not have the best connection to my dad when I was young because I did not see him much and I was playing football a lot and with my friends a lot.

"Probably as a kid you can be a bit embarrassed of your parents, especially as my mum was an alcoholic. I did not want to be at home."

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It was tough for everyone, his father included. "He always supported me without saying or doing things that were obvious. He let me be. And now we have a better connection than ever because I recognised what he has done for me to give me the opportunity and platform to develop my skills and give me the freedom just to be a kid. Now he has more time to see me play. He is just happy for that and can share in my success."

Marcondes is on loan from the Cherries - but his contract expires at the end of the season.Marcondes is on loan from the Cherries - but his contract expires at the end of the season.
Marcondes is on loan from the Cherries - but his contract expires at the end of the season.

Now 68, his father has a new girlfriend and came over to watch Hibs' 2-1 win against Dundee two weekends ago. "He loves to watch me more and more the older he gets. It has become his dream as well, which is nice to feel. He was not watching all my games when I was a kid. Now I feel he is really passionate about my career, reading all the interviews - he will probably read this one as well!"

Although not providing the Brazilian genes, he believes it is his father rather than his mother - whose father played in the youth ranks for Sao Paulo's Corinthians - to whom thanks are owed for him becoming a footballer. Kim was obsessed with Brazil, hence meeting and marrying his late ex-wife. As well as music, he also had a passion, shared by many, for the country’s footballers.

"He raised me with football but always telling Brazilian stories,” recalls his son. "He would not talk about Danish players. He would say, ‘You are Brazilian’. Ronaldo, the No. 9, was the best striker when I was growing up. My dad would tell me that he and Ronaldinho did not have shoes but they became the best players in the world. ‘You do the same,’ he’d say. “It was always about Brazilians.

"No one knew about Pele in Denmark, only me," he continues. "I had Pele shirts. I came to school with Pele shirts. The other kids were like, ‘who is Pele?’ In Danish 'pele' sounds a bit like the word for a pill you take. 'Why do you have pill on your shirt, why do you have ‘pill’ on your shirt. What pills are you taking?!'

Marcondes is a student of the multi-club model - Lewis Stevenson, who he is pictured next to, has been at Hibs his whole career.Marcondes is a student of the multi-club model - Lewis Stevenson, who he is pictured next to, has been at Hibs his whole career.
Marcondes is a student of the multi-club model - Lewis Stevenson, who he is pictured next to, has been at Hibs his whole career.

"I had to explain he is a legend, he used to be the best player in the world. No one knew. But he was my dad’s idol."

It's ten years this summer since the World Cup was held in Brazil. Aged 19, and with a few games under his belt at Nordsjaelland, Marcondes was at the right stage to make a pilgrimage home although there was a more solemn reason to make the trip. "My mum passed away in 2012,” he says. “So the first time after she passed was my trip in 2014. I went to see the graveyard."

He could not afford to go to any of the World Cup matches when he was there but drank in the atmosphere. "I have seen many games, but only club matches like Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Flamengo and Palmeiras," he says. Although he has grandparents in Sao Paulo as well as several cousins, he fears it is becoming a lost, or at least more remote, part of his heritage,

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While he says he feels Brazilian when he plays football, he would like to reconnect more with his roots. “I feel like it is still something I am missing. Maybe at some point I can live my passion about building an academy in Brazil."

He has plenty of time left to play in Brazil. Is that a possibility? "You never know," he says. "I never thought I would play in Scotland but I am here. I do not close any opportunities.”


Marcondes prepares for Sunday's Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers.Marcondes prepares for Sunday's Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers.
Marcondes prepares for Sunday's Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers.

In many ways, the on-loan Marcondes is the ultimate manifestation of the new breed of footballer. Players who play for one club throughout their careers seems a very quaint concept now, although the Dane does have the privilege of sharing a dressing room with members of this dying breed. Lewis Stevenson must feel like an exhibit these days, so too Paul Hanlon.

Never mind playing for just one club, players nowadays are more likely to be tied to several clubs at the same time. Take, for example, the intrepid Marcondes. He joined FC Midtjylland five years ago on loan from Brentford, where he had moved from Nordsjaelland the previous year. Why Midtjlland? At the time Brentford owner Matthew Benham held a majority stake in the progressive Danish club. Marcondes returned to help Brentford into the English top flight for the first time in 74 years.

Indeed, he more than helped. He scored the goal that secured their Premier League place in the play-off final at Wembley against Swansea, when he was also named man of the match. He was promptly released.

“Maybe the first two days I was angry about it or sad and disappointed,” he says. “I could not do anything about it. It was what it was. I still understood it from a business perspective. I had other opportunities.”

One of them was Bournemouth, owned by an American businessman called Bill Foley, a detail that became very relevant late last year when it emerged the billionaire's Black Knight group had an interest in buying a stake in Hibs. The deal was ratified earlier this month and brought the Easter Road club into a network of teams made up by Lorient in France and New Zealand side Auckland. Whatever one's thoughts on what it means in the long term for Scottish football as well as Hibs, there's no arguing with the possibilities that have opened up. Marcondes is living proof.

"I think it will happen more and more," he says. "The most crucial thing is recruitment. I would not have thought about going to Hibs if there was not a link up with Bournemouth. That is the honest truth.”

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But now he is here, might he stay longer than the end of the season, when he is a free agent? After all, given Foley's investment, it might be argued Hibs already own a part of him - ideally the left foot that swept the ball home against Hearts earlier this month, and might well send the Easter Road side to Hampden when they host Rangers in a Scottish Cup quarter-final tie tomorrow evening.

“I am open to everything,” says Marcondes on remaining at Hibs. Even Bournemouth, who announced this week that Technical Director Richard Hughes, the ex-Scotland internationalist, was stepping down, remain on the table. "There is still a chance,” he says.

He spoke with Hughes earlier this week. "They are also on a new path to building something bigger, which I am also involved in," he says, with reference to his status as an investor in Nordensa, a fan-powered footballer recruitment scheme, and his own Visionary Athletes platform, created along with two fellow footballers in Denmark to help players expand their horizons away from the game.

"I like the idea of being involved in these innovative programmes,” he says. “That motivates me and is bigger than just playing football for money. I hope to show that I can be one to direct and guide other players."

Marcondes is now an expert on multi-club ownership. He could deliver a presentation on the subject, which is handy because a couple of weeks ago that’s exactly what he had to do as part of his studies towards an undergraduate degree in global football business management at the PFA business school, where fellow students include Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and Rangers defender Ben Davies.

As a case study he chose Burnley, who have of course recently announced a strategic partnership with Dundee. He had a unique perspective. "It was two days before we played Dundee!" he says. "I could explain how they will have three players on loan from Burnley.

“For some players it can feel like going back to school but for me it is interesting stuff,” he adds. “It is about my job. I am living it! We talk about the City Group, about multi-club ownership and academies in Brazil and Africa, and how they get into Europe. It is interesting. I am employed by a multi-club so why shouldn’t I understand how they work and how they do things? More players should be open to that."

He had his own eyes opened by the Right to Dream group, a dual football and education programme set up in Ghana by former Manchester United scout Tom Vernon, who also co-owns Nordsjaelland. Marcondes has put on a free-kick school in Ghana and is involved in an academy in Uganda.

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"There are players here who are doing other stuff, like Paul Hanlon and Stevo (Lewis Stevenson) who have their charity and Luke Amos is having language courses," he says. "He (Amos) speaks French now. He learned that with a tutor and is starting to take courses around starting a company. I want those players who are open to that to come to Visionary Athletes to get help and guidance.”

As for Nordensa, its aim to shine a light on footballers in less exposed areas of the globe sounds equally innovative. "We are building a platform to help players who are not noticed or identified in countries that don’t really have the attention on them and data analysis,” he explains. “They are recruiting players and giving fans the opportunity to be more involved with players. That’s what fans want, to be closer.

“On the app, you can buy shares in players and then, if they succeed and get a contract, you get 20 per cent of the salary. But you split that between all the fans who have invested.

"It's 30 euros for one share. And you can buy shares in this player, shares in another player. You can even buy all the shares in one player if you are quick to scout them. You can see the clips of how good they are. You can judge with your eyes. All fans like to think they know the best footballer…"

Hibs might have recently held their agm but they could give the ailing stock market a boost by announcing plans to sell shares in Marcondes in a bid to prolong his stay.