|Indy Eleven striker - Eamon Zayed|
From playing in front of a few hundred on rainy days at Morton Stadium in Dublin with Sporting Fingal to scoring a hat trick in front of 90,000 fans in Tehran with Persepolis, one would imagine Éamon Zayed has quite a few stories behind him.
Zayed arrives in Indianapolis after his most recent stint playing for Sabah United in Malaysia alongside one of Africa's more notable players, El Hadj Diouf of Senegal.
Born in Dublin (Ireland's capital of course, not Ohio), and if you have listened to any of his interviews it's not hard to recognize by his accent he is definitely a Dublin boy, but Éamon's nationality as far as the sport of football goes is Libyan.
Zayed played for Ireland's Under-21 national team scoring 5 goals in 12 games, but as often happens in international football, players with an option to play for more than one nation after that age can and do opt to make switch. Éamon did, and elected to play for Libya. He has appeared for the Libyan national team before, during and after the Civil war of 2011.
It would take a big map and a lot of pins to plot out the playing career of this center forward. From scoring against teams as far flung as Kuala Lumpur and Equitorial Guinea and taking on Liverpool in Champions League qualifiers, for an Irish lad he has racked up a lot of air miles and probably ate a lot of very fancy foods too!
From the many exotic places Éamon has played, probably the most memorable and most talked about in his career recently has been the hat trick he scored for Persepolis in a city derby with rivals Esteghlal. Persepolis were 2-0 down in a match played in front of 90,000 supporters. Zayed was introduced to the game with 30 minutes remaining and scored three goals. The first came on the 81st minute and the last in the second minute of stoppage time.
One of the more bizarre stories surrounding that game is that of one young fan in his early 20's dying of a heart attack through sheer excitement after the third goal went in. Iranians are extremely fanatical and passionate about soccer and apparently this kind of thing is not uncommon. Éamon was asked by the club to make a statement to the newspapers offering his condolences and sympathy to the family of the young man.
After this performance Zayed was plastered onto about every newspaper and magazine that could be imagined in Iran, he regularly had people paying for his dinner, coming up to him and just handing him money or kissing him and thanking him for such a memorable game. Éamon also became affectionately know as "Mr Hat Trick" among the Persepolis faithful in Tehran.
Life in Iran was not always fun and high times for Éamon however. After Persepolis, Zayed moved on to play for Aluminium Hormozgan ( that's Al-yoo-mini-yum for all you North American spelling police out there). After a season at Hormozgan his contract was up and Zayed sat down to discuss the money he was owed.
The club offered him a third of the money he was due, which obviously to any player, was unacceptable to Éamon. The club threatened to withhold his passport and the situation boiled down to him not being able to leave until he agreed to vastly reduced terms. Achieving 60-70% of your agreed amount is considered a good deal in Iranian football.
From here Éamon Zayed's love affair with Iran ended and he once again returned to Ireland in 2013 to play for his fifth league of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers. This would become six after he was loaned to Sligo Rovers in 2014. Zayed has also played for Bray Wanderers, Sporting Fingal, Drogheda and Derry City. Éamon won the PFIA player of the year award in 2011.
His final destination before putting pen to paper with Indy Eleven was 8,983 ,miles away in Sabah, Malaysia. When he arrives in Indianapolis and laces up his cleats, he will do so on his fourth continent. If he can repeat his productivity in Indy as he has everywhere he has gone, you can most definitely expect to see goals in 2016!
At at least four of his clubs Zayed has maintained a record of a fraction over 1 goal in every two games played, for a striker anywhere in the world this is an enviable record. At his last club Sabah United he only played 21 games but netted 11 times.
From the day he signed for Bray Wanderers back in 2002 until leaving Malaysia, Éamon Zayed has made 339 club appearances and scored 171 goals. It is never easy to predict how a player will adapt to a different league, but for a striker who has played just about everywhere you might be forgiven for assuming he will maintain that average and score around fifteen goals in 2016. One can only hope!
If Tim Hankinson can build a team that can provide good service and Zayed can adapt to the NASL quickly, the loyal supporters of Indy Eleven could be looking at a cult hero in the making.
Welcome to Indianapolis Éamon Zayed, please bring your shootin' boots, we need them!
You can follow Éamon on twitter at @EamonZayed
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