'They were crying with me': Hibs' Marijan Cabraja talks about death of his father and Rangers speech

It was a very human moment of personal grief that was felt by thousands who watched on and the squad of team-mates and coaches who rallied around to offer what little comfort they could.

Since he signed for Hibs, full-back Marijan Cabraja has come across as an uncompromising competitor, but in the immediate aftermath of the recent draw with Rangers, he sank to the turf, his broken heart on his sleeve, as he mourned the loss of the father he and his family had bid farewell to just 48 hours earlier.

Offered the opportunity to sit the game out on, instead, the 25-year-old Croat flew back to Edinburgh and although manager Lee Johnson started him on the bench, he was thrust into the action in the 28th minute. But it was cathartic.

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“I spoke to my brother – I listen to him like another father – and he told me our father would want me to play,” said Cabraja.

Hibs' Marijan Cabraja says it "wasn't a hard decision" to play after the death of his father Frano.
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"I texted the gaffer on Friday to say I was flying back to Edinburgh and I was ready if he needed me. It wasn't a hard decision."

Football was a passion he had shared with dad Frano and it helped to channel his feelings.

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“I used my emotions throughout the game. The tears came and went a few times but it helped me. Football is already emotional and at the end of the game, that was my release. It was much easier with this team."

Coaches and players wrapped their arms around him and let him know he was not alone. So far away from his biological family, he had found kinship.

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Cabraja had to be consoled by his Hibs team-mates after completing the Rangers match.

"My family and I will ever forget that moment. They were so happy when they saw that because they know the guys are with me, and that I've settled fine.

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"Everyone sent messages – the physios, everyone.”

That not only comforted the former Ferencvaros player but also eased the emotional strain on mother Kača and brother Anto as well.

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”They are all together in Croatia, while I am here in Edinburgh with my wife and no one else and they thought it might be difficult for me. But when they saw all the messages they felt better."

There was a heartfelt moment in the dressing room after that Rangers match as the summer signing addressed his team-mates.

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"My mother told me I needed to say thank you because she saw all the messages and it helped her, so I felt I had to do it.

"They were crying with me but everything they did for me, all the messages, the support when I went home, I can't thank them enough."

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He had felt that sense of comradeship early in his Hibs career and the way everyone rallied round following the sudden death of his father only reinforced that.

"To be honest, in the first week when I came here I spoke to my friends and told them that this is probably the nicest dressing room I've ever been in.

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"This club is a family club and I felt that from the first week. We share moments every day at training. We are really close, we hang out a lot, speak to each other about everything.

"The dressing room is really close and it will help us through the season to get better results.”