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19 of 032 Bruno Aguiar 41 L SPL A

Edinburgh prepares for derby day

Phil Gordon

Fabian Yantorno knows a thing or two about local derbies. He comes from the city that can lay claim to the oldest cross-town rivalry in football, outside of Britain. However, if Edinburgh has endured a long wait for the latest episode of its eternal duel, there is no such problem back in the Hibernian player's home city of Montevideo.

The Uruguayan capital has a remarkable total of 14 clubs, out of the 16 in the South American country's top flight. There are handfuls of derbies every week of the season. Edinburgh's rivals have not met each other for nine months, after Heart of Midlothian's failure to finish in the top six of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League last season wiped the final meeting between the pair off the calendar.

The little Uruguayan would love to make his derby baptism tomorrow at Easter Road and reward Mixu Paatelainen with a goal for rescuing his career after he became a victim of Gretna's financial implosion last season. “We had a lot of derbies in Montevideo but not like this one,” the 26-year-old forward said. “People have been talking about this game for weeks.”

While Scotland's capital is split in two, its Uruguayan counterpart has so many teams vying for a slice of attention. Yantorno played for two of those Montevideo clubs, Bella Vista and Miramar Misiones, but he admits that everyone is dwarfed by the big two: Penarol and Nacional, who have been facing each other since 1900, though that is comparatively young compared to the Hibernian-Hearts fixture, which dates back to 1875.
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“Penarol and Nacional are very much like Celtic and Rangers,” Yantorno said. “They have both won the Copa Libertadores in the past, that meant they were South American champions, so they were big clubs. Even though Uruguayan football is not that strong any more, they are still the two best-supported teams in the country. However, we have a lot of teams in Montevideo and that means a lot of derbies. My clubs, Bella Vista and Miramar, are not that big. Their grounds hold 7,000 people. However, derbies are the best games to play because there is a lot of pressure because you don't want to lose to another local side.”

Yantorno has been given a crash course since joining Hibernian in the summer about the rivalry with Hearts, and the urgent need to regain the upper hand after losing 1-0 at Tynecastle in the last one, on January 19, when Andrius Velicka scored Hearts' winner. The Uruguayan moved to the city after his numbing experience at Gretna and lives in a flat close to Easter Road.

Yantorno came close to packing his case seven months and heading home to Uruguay after his bold decision to come to Scotland backfired when Gretna went into administration. Not only was his contract ripped up, but he was homeless because he lived in a flat in Carlisle owned by the club - and he was on crutches, as he recovered from a knee injury.

Paatelainen offered Yantorno a second chance, allowing the player to continue his rehabilitation at Hibernian and then handing him a short- term deal. “What happened to me last season was not easy for any person to go through,” Yantorno said. “It was a difficult situation for all the boys at Gretna but I was thousands of miles from my home and family and it was hard to understand what was going on. Fortunately, my girlfriend speaks very good English and she sorted a lot of things out. My English is really good now and I can understand all the boys in the dressing-room. That was hard when I first came to Gretna. When the club closed, it was not a good moment for me.

“However, when a manager like Mixu Paatelainen phones you and offers you a chance to come to a big team like Hibernian, it gives you confidence again. I am grateful to Mixu and I want to prove my worth, especially in a derby.

“I feel I have recovered fully from my injury now and I am fitter. I have been on the bench recently and just want to get a chance to show what I can do. Maybe the big occasion, when the game is live on television, brings out the best in me. I scored a free kick last season for Gretna against Celtic in a live game. The only sad thing would be that my parents in Montevideo will not be able to see it.”

Paatelainen has yet to savour the experience of beating Hearts as a manager but he is indelibly written into Hibernian's history after scoring a hat-trick in a 6-2 derby rout in 2000. For his counterpart, Csaba Laszlo, it will also be his Edinburgh derby baptism, but that statistic is not exactly unique, given that Hearts have worked their way through eight managers in the past four years.

Christophe Berra, the Hearts captain, enjoys going into the lion's den of Easter Road. “I thrive on it,” he said. “I know it will be a hot reception, that's what you want to play in. The atmosphere will be red hot but hopefully that brings out the best in us.”

Taken from

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