Eamon Zayed Derry City striker Eamon Zayed gives his hard-hitting views on the Airtricity League every week
Potential Earnings in Unfamiliar Places
Published: March 10, 2010
In my first column, I mentioned that towards the back-end of the 2008 season, Drogheda United ran into huge financial trouble. I was left in search of a new club and eventually ended up on the books at Sporting Fingal. However, before I arrived at Sporting Fingal, I had a few “footballing experiences” that I will never forget.

Football has taken me around the world to many different countries including America, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Ukraine, Germany and Switzerland among others. However, two of the most unusual and unexpected countries that football has brought me to are South Korea and Azerbaijan.

This week I am going to talk about my experience over in South Korea in terms of both standard of football compared to League of Ireland and the potential earnings to be made in unfamiliar countries such as Korea and Azerbaijan.

When Drogheda United went into administration and we all had our contracts subsequently terminated, I received a few phone calls from various agents. Obviously, trying to make a quick few quid, they offered me the opportunity to go on trials abroad. One agent mentioned a couple of clubs in league one in England; another offered the opportunity to go to Hamilton Academical F.C in Scotland.

I received a call from an English agent from Newcastle. He said that he had seen me play in Europe for Drogheda against Dynamo Kiev. He told me that there was a team that was interested in taking me and another team mate of mine at the time, Adam Hughes over on trial, all expenses paid for, in South Korea.

Initially, I was very hesitant and sceptical about flying half way across the world to a country and football league that I knew nothing about. However, after speaking with Adam, we decided that we had nothing to lose and a week later, we set off for the ‘land of morning calm.'

The team we were going over to was called Incheon United. They play in the K-League and play their home games in the Incheon Munhak Stadium, one of the ten venues built in Korea for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. We were over there for a week altogether but as there was a time difference of 9 hours between Korea and Ireland; it took us a couple of days to adapt and therefore, we didn’t start training with the team till day 3 of our week long trial.

Training was difficult as no one on the team or coaching staff could speak a word of English so in that respect, it was very tough communicating with the players and understanding what the coaches wanted us to do. Standard wise, they were good. They were perhaps what I would have expected; technically, they were all comfortable with the ball, they loved dribbling, taking players on and trying different skills.

They retained the ball quite well and a lot of them were quick and small but surprisingly not afraid to throw their foot into a tackle. I felt however, what they lacked on was the tactical side of the game. I feel that if they came up against a top 3 league of Ireland side, technically they would be better but they would lose out against the more physical and tactical side of the game that a top league of Ireland team would play.

I played two friendly games over there which they organised for myself and Adams benefit. They played a 4-4-2 system which looked like a 2-5-3 formation at times as they loved to attack but forgot their defensive duties in doing so. The first game in which we played went better than we both expected. Adam done exceptionally well in the centre of midfield and I managed to score two goals and set up another in a 4-2 win.

The next day, a meeting was organised with a club official (who spoke English) to discuss the potential possibility of a contract offer. He came straight out and asked us how much we would be looking for. We returned his question with a question and asked what kind of offer we could expect to get. He took a moment firstly to explain that the club were not as wealthy as other clubs within the league but the opportunity to move to a bigger club in Korea would be there if we performed well enough at their club.

He then said that they could make an offer of €50,000 signing on fee, and €250,000 a year, including means of transport and accommodation. Myself and Adam looked at each other speechless. He then said that if we were successful, the bigger clubs within Korea offered contracts of €1 million a year plus. The money on offer was just too good to be true. We had one more game to impress and after that, we could be looking at a potentially money spinning move to Korea.

However, our adventure to Korea ended on an anti-climax as in our final game there, Adam went off injured at half time and I played my way out of a possible contract offer by missing a host of easy chances in the game.

I flew back home though, having an unforgettable experience and also in the knowledge that there’s an opportunity out there for players to look further a field in the footballing world and earn themselves a mini-fortune by plying their trade abroad in those unfamiliar countries.