GLOBE-TROTTING striker, Eamon Zayed, is excited about beginning another thrilling adventure in yet another continent as he readies himself to join up with NASL side, Indy Eleven, in the United States next month.
Since the former Derry City hitman left Brandywell Stadium in 2011, his football career has taken him across Africa, Asia, Europe and, now, North America where he will team up with 2002 World Cup winner and ex-Manchester United midfielder, Kléberson.
So it’s been an interesting few years for the Dubliner who’s clearly not intimidated by the prospect of going to some of the most dangerous, war-torn countries in the world to ply his trade.
Although he did turn down a chance to play for Iraqi club, Zokho, in favour of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta (Miami FC) in the North American Soccer League this year - and who could blame him?
The 32 year-old Libyan international had spells in England and Norway in his younger days before establishing himself as a top striker in the League of Ireland with Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United, Sporting Fingal, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City. And he’s racked up more than 150 goals in over 300 first team appearances for his various clubs.
Zayed admits he has always had a soft spot for the ‘Candy Stripes’ where he achieved three of his personal goals in 2011 by winning the PFAI ‘Player of the Year’, the League Cup and finishing as top goalscorer with 23 goals.
He left Foyleside after helping City reach third spot in the league as he felt it was time for a new challenge and took up an offer to join Iranian Premier League side, Persepolis.
He quickly became a fans’ favourite after netting a hat-trick in the Tehran derby before joining another Iranian club, Aluminium Hormozgan, in 2013.
And after a short return to League of Ireland football, he packed his bags once again and ended an almost 10 year association with the FAI to play for Malaysian side, Sabah Rhinos.
And now he feels it’s time for yet another challenge in another foreign land as he prepares himself for the upcoming NASL season with Indy Eleven.
“It’s another continent - somewhere I haven’t tried yet,” he laughed. “I can’t wait. America was somewhere I always wondered if I would get the chance to play over there.
“So, I’m delighted. There was a manager back in 2012 (Peter Wilt) who got in touch with me and he wasn’t aware that I was in Iran at the time. It was a month after I signed from Derry to Persepolis.
“We kept in contact and he offered me a contract in 2013 but, again, I just wasn’t in a position to accept it.
Then, in October 2015, he took over Indy Eleven in the NASL and rang me again and this time I was in a position to say ‘yes’. So, I signed and start pre-season in February.
“The NASL was there long before the MLS was established. The NASL was the bigger league back when they had the New York Cosmos and Pelé came over to play.
“So I’m looking forward to being a part of it. There’s still some high profile players in the league. Last year the New York Cosmos had Raúl playing for them. Miami FC is owned by Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta is the manager so I imagine they will bring in some high profile players.
“I expect a league that is full of young, fit people. Technically, they should be good players.
“Looking back, it’s been a really good journey for me. I’ve been fortunate to experience different parts of the world that other people are, maybe, scared to go to or didn’t get opportunities. I love the challenge of going somewhere new and trying to make your name and succeed. I enjoy it and you get to see a totally different footballing culture.”
His single season at Derry City under Stephen Kenny is a part of that journey he cherishes most and he explains how a conversation with an unnamed, well decorated Derry player during that time gave him the motivation and desire to travel around the world.
“I played almost 10 years in Ireland and always had certain goals of what I wanted to win. And it just fell into place. The year I had in Derry, there were three things I hadn’t achieved and I achieved all three at Brandywell that year.
“I had never won the League Cup and I got that. I had never been ‘PFAI ‘Player of the Year’ and I got that with Derry. And, as a striker, I wanted to finish one season as top goalscorer and, again, I got that in Derry.
“So, after that season I wanted something else that would motivate me and after Derry I had the opportunity to go to Iran which was far more appealing than staying in Ireland. It just felt like the right time to move on.
“I remember at Derry one thing always stuck in my mind. I was talking to a player who had a great career. He won many titles and personal awards. We were having a sandwich and talking about different things and he mentioned that, for all the medals and trophies he won, he wasn’t sure how many years he had left. He was thinking about a different career path when he finished football but financially he didn’t have that much to show for his career.
“I was looking at one of the top players in Ireland,” he explained.
“In England, you reap the benefits of all your success but in Ireland you can win the ‘Player of the Year’ and still find yourself struggling to find a club the following season or having to drop your salary and having to find a part-time job in the off-season.
“It hit home. So I always felt that, if I got a chance to make money playing football elsewhere, I would take it. That’s one of the reasons I went to Iran and then I got the chance to go to Malaysia from there.”
He might be the other side of the Atlantic but he, as always, will be keeping a close eye on developments at Brandywell this season and he was excited about the return of his former teammate Gareth McGlynn.
“I genuinely think it’s a great piece of business,” said Zayed. “You have to look at the way Gareth plays. He never relied on pace - he plays with his brain.
“He’s an intelligent player. He won’t lose his touch or vision and he’s more experienced so it’s a great piece of business.
“I’ve played in the league with many different players and some excellent players. One of the players that spring to mind in the No. 10 position is Ronan Finn but Gareth McGlynn is definitely the best No. 10 I’ve ever played with. He’s the best I’ve seen in the league in that little pocket behind the striker. Whether it’s coming off the right wing or in that No. 10 position. He’s a great replacement for Patrick McEleney.”