There are some words that don’t translate. Not in the dictionary, not even with the help of Google; a broad east coast “I dinnae ken” could feel like listening to alien tongues for the first time.

Such is the nature of modern football that multi-cultural dressing rooms are the norm. But if the training ground is a melting pot, it doesn’t mean that being dropped into is all that straightforward.

Didier Agathe had already gone through one cultural transition when he boarded a 10-hour flight from La Reunion as a teenager to eek out a professional career in France. When that career took a detour – a detour that would be definitive in his path – to Kirkcaldy – it was quite the eye-opener.

“When I first game to Kirkcaldy I was lost,” recalled Agathe. “Completely lost. People were saying ‘I dinnae ken’ and I could not understand one word of it or what it meant. Eventually, I think it was Peter McVeigh who told me that it just meant ‘I don’t know’ but it was so difficult at first. The first night I went out for a meal, it was freezing. Here were girls, short skirts, no jackets and speaking a language so fast and so unlike anything that I could understand.”

His time at Raith was brief, playing for one season before an even briefer stop off at Easter Road when Celtic came calling.

Having announced himself as a striker at Raith, Martin O’Neill made him a winger.

Agathe went on to become a pivotal part of O’Neill’s side, winning three league titles, three Scottish Cups, the League Cup and was a key member of the team who made it to Seville and the UEFA Cup final in 2003.

At just 50k, Agathe walked into a Celtic dressing room that had just handed O’Neill considerable funds to rebuild a shattered squad. Chris Sutton was a record Scottish transfer fee while there was considerable money spent on Alan Thompson, Neil Lennon and John Hartson. Undaunted by sharing a pitch with players who had been plucked from the English Premier League and who all had personalities as big as their price tags, Agathe’s realisation was the only place to really communicate was on the pitch.

“Any player walking into a different culture and a different language will find it to be a challenge,” he said. “It is not easy. For me, the easiest part was to play. Sometimes it feels like the only time you can be yourself is when you go onto the pitch to play a game. That language is universal. The players I had around me knew right away that I had pace and where I would want the ball. They knew that without me having to speak about it and there is a release when you just go out and do your job and the thing you love to do.”

If the cultural differences were stark, there was one aspect that Agathe was surprised at away from the pitch. When he told friends and former teammates in France that he had been offered a deal with Raith in Kirkcaldy, there had been cautions about bracing himself for racist taunts as he headed to a small Scottish community. Scotland has ample social issues and it would be ridiculously twee to claim that the welcome mat is always rolled out – recent months have depressingly illuminated that – but Agathe’s most shocking moments came as a kid in Montpellier.

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“When I first told people in France that I was heading to a place called Kirkcaldy in Scotland, they warned me that the racism would be bad,” he explained. “Yet, I never experienced that in my time in Scotland at all. Even as a Celtic player I didn’t ever feel really threatened or intimidated by Rangers fans if I was out in the city.

“The worst experiences I had was actually as 16-year-old in Montpellier. You have to remember that La Reunion is a 10-hour flight away from France so although the language was the same, the culture was very different. It was a huge thing for me as a teenager to leave home and go and try to make a career there.

“We were playing a game one day and there were a couple of old guys standing watching it through the fence. As I went to take a throw-in, an old man around 60 or 70, spat at me as I bent to pick up the ball. It was so shocking I couldn’t speak. There is nothing that prepares you for that. I did nothing and I said nothing. I couldn’t believe what had actually happened. So when people warned me about going to Scotland, I felt I had already experienced some difficult lessons. But I can honestly say I never had anything like that in my time at Raith Rovers, at Hibs or at Celtic.”

For any player, though, the cultural changes at a new club can feel overwhelming. Agathe contented himself with playing and nodding when he had no clue what was been said but his advice to any players in similar situations now is to affiliate with the club and the people within it.

Paul Lambert adopted a similar attitude when he went to Germany. There was a fair bit of sneering when his farewell message to the Dortmund support revealed grammatical errors in his native tongue but the European Cup winner signed off having immersed himself in the German language and culture, warning that without being able to join in dressing room jokes and general chat that he would never have integrated into the team.

Agathe’s way was to seek the counsel of Lisbon Lion John Clark, then a daily presence as he took charge of the dressing rooms. Clark might jokingly have reminded players of the strength it needed to lift one particular cup but there was another side to him too.

“The big thing for me is that it is so important to become a part of the club,” said Agathe. “John Clark was very kind to me. I knew he liked chocolate so I would bring him chocolate and we shared a great faith together. He took me to Carfin, to the grotto and told me where I could go to mass but he would tell me stories about the club and about Celtic and their place in Scottish society and I was like a kid as he told these stories.

“I always thought that I was lucky to have him as a friend and Celtic were lucky to have him still at the club because he is such a humble man. He offered me an education about Celtic and that was so important for me as a foreign player to understand that.

“I didn’t know anything about Jimmy Johnstone or the Lisbon Lions before I went to Celtic but he taught me so much. And this is what I think is so important when you are coming into a new culture. I loved this, I loved learning about it and even now I tell people that Jinky was probably one of the best players the world has ever seen – and they need to know about him!

“When I look at France and at a big club like PSG, it is a big club. But it was formed in 1973. The club was born long after the city. In Scotland and particularly at Celtic, the football is built around the city. It is woven throughout the culture of Glasgow. It represents its people and to play there, I think you have to appreciate that when you are playing for Celtic because you become representative of that.”

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Agathe recalls one diplomatic incident when his understanding of the political landscape in this part of the world was brought into question. A blanket description that tagged Lennon and Sutton with the same nationality brought forth a fairly direct correction that took some time to fully compute. That recollection draws a chuckle from Agathe although he does admit that the nuances within Scottish culture took some adjusting.

“When I went to Celtic, I could understand Martin [O’Neill],” he said. “Yet I struggled with Neil Lennon and with Chris Sutton I could not understand a single word. He was very kind to me. I remember Lenny one day shouting at me in a game and I was just nodding and thinking that no matter how loud he got I still could not understand him although I could understand Alan Thompson.

“But the language is just one aspect of it. For me, the whole culture was so different. At that point, Celtic didn’t train at Lennoxtowm. We would train at Barrowfield and use the stadium facilities. After training the guys would jump in the big, old communal bath which I had never seen before. What I understand now is that it helped to make us a team, to bond us together but I was shocked at first.

“At Celtic we would go to hotels before games and you could eat whatever you wanted really, within reason. There would be ketchup and mayonnaise and you could have a glass of wine if you wanted. There would be music and it would be quite relaxed whereas in France there would be none of that. There would be no wine or music before a game, anything with sugar like the ketchup wouldn’t be available so it was big for me to get used to that.

“All that mattered at Celtic was that we produced when we went onto the pitch.”

For all the changes of the last 20 years that much remains the same.