Eamon Zayed taking opportunity to break America
Former Shamrock Rovers striker not finished with his travels just yet
Dublin-born forward Eamon Zayed has played internationally for Libya. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.
Having spent time in Iran and Malaysia, there is something surprisingly mainstream about the news that former Derry City, Drogheda United and Shamrock Rovers striker Eamon Zayed is following the likes of Richie Ryan, Derek Foran and Tommy Stewart to the United States where he is about to join up with Indiana club Indy Eleven.
Zayed, now 32, says that he enjoyed his previous, more exotic excursions but “America has been on my mind. I’ve travelled there on holidays and loved it. It was something that I thought if the offer came along at the right time, I take it and I’ve just turned 32. If I turn it down now, I’m not going to get it next year or the year after. I felt that I had to take it now whereas back with San Antonio Scorpions (who made several attempts to sign him a few years back), I thought I might get it another year or two down the line.”
Second tierTim Hankinson
“He was persistent,” he says. “He really wanted me and when you have a manager like that it’s great.”
In Iran, Zayed played and scored in front of huge crowds and, while the standard of football in Malaysia was nowhere near as high, he says the facilities were good and attendances were generally between 15,000 and 20,000, something he relished.
He feels he did relatively well there, particularly while former Liverpool star El Hadji Diouf, was in the side and doing well: “His body’s not what it was but he’s still got a pass in him,” says the Libyan international, “but he got suspended late in the season and we ended up having a terrible finish to the campaign.
“Overall, I got 11 goals in 21 games but the last eight games (which included a run of seven losses and one draw) killed me. There were 22 league games and I got suspended for one so 21. I was looking at 15 plus for the season and I thought if I get that then I’m almost guaranteed another contract. I was well on course for that if we’d just kept going.”
A large part of the appeal of staying on was the fact that the club continued to attract large attendances. “I absolutely love playing in front of crowds, the bigger the better and you definitely feel that you play better,” he says. “Going out in Ireland playing in front of maybe a thousand people, it’s just not the same feeling.
“So I’m going over with the view that the stadiums, facilities and professionalism will be great. Indy have the highest average attendance in the NASL (North American Soccer League, the level below MLS), just over 10,000, so playing in front of 10,000 will be something to look forward to.
“This is not a financial decision at all, not at all. This is just somewhere I felt I wanted to try if I got the chance before I finished football. I love travelling. I think it makes a person and I don’t see why people in Ireland don’t try to take every opportunity that comes up. And travelling and getting paid for it? To me, that just makes sense.”
Having been working with Dublin Gaelic footballer Philly McMahon on his fitness through the winter, he flies out with the intention to get settled and acclimatised before the squad officially starts work together in 10 days’ time.