Eamon Zayed: 'Libya came at the perfect time for me - I was getting fed up with football'

Wed, Jan 17 2018

Zayed spent time back in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers before moving to North America in 2016. Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

It's seven years since the league-winning former Drogheda United striker Eamon Zayed gave up on his dream to represent Ireland and pulled on the Libyan shirt for the first time.


The Dubliner – who for the past two years has lined out in the American midwest for NASL side Indy Eleven – has seen a lot in those years.


From witnessing the Libyan civil war up close to scoring a fairytale late treble to win the Tehran derby in front of 80,000, 'Mr Hat Trick' has no shortage of stories.


Representing the birthplace of his father was the next best thing to lining out for the Boys in Green but, as Zayed tells the Extratime.ie Sportscast, it also rekindled his love for professional football.


“[Libya] came knocking at the perfect time, if I'm honest,” Zayed tells presenter Declan Marron and reporter Dave Donnelly.


“It was my second year at Sporting Fingal and, to be honest, I had a dreadful time playing football the second year. The first year wasn't so bad but the second year wasn't good at all.


“When Libya came calling it was the perfect time because, to be honest, I was getting fed up with football a little bit.


“Liam Buckley was the coach at the time and instead of playing me in my natural position, which is straight down the middle, he decided to utilise me out left.


“Anybody that knows me would probably laugh at the idea of playing me out left. It wasn't my position and I didn't really enjoy it.”


“I'd just finished a master's in 2010 while I was playing with Fingal and I'd contemplated quitting full-time football and going back to part-time football.


“But Libya came calling, I went over for a week and I knew when I flew back to Ireland I wanted to experience that again.


“It was an unbelievable experience, and I wanted to continue playing full-time football. It was the perfect time for me.”


Years earlier, Tunisia – where his father's parents hail from - had sounded out the striker's interest while he was involved in the Irish underage set-up under Brian Kerr.


“When I was over there, Tunisia were the first nation that got wind of me representing Ireland, and they approached me to play. But at the time, I wanted to play for Ireland – to put on that jersey one day.


“But as the years go by, the opportunity gets slimmer and slimmer, and you kind of have be realistic with yourself. I probably wasn't going to represent the Irish national team.”


Indeed, his future could have lain in domestic Libyan football had it not been for a mixture of itchy fingers and government interference scuppering a move to Al-Ahly – literally the People's Club.


“The Eamon Zayed rule as my friends and family nicknamed it,” he laughs.


“It was bizarre. When I went over to Libya, the Libyan media made a massive fuss over me and there was another player who was based in Portugal of Libyan ancestry.


“We were the first European-based players, playing professional football in Europe, to play international football for the Libya national. The media made a big fuss about it.


“I was approached by two teams playing in the Libyan league – the two biggest teams based in Tripoli – to sign for them.


“One of the teams was run by the government, by Muammar Gaddafi's son, and the other one was looked at as the people's team. Both teams offered me a contract.


“The first contract was offered by the government team – great contract, six months. I was about to say yeah until the people's team came knocking and they offered me an even better contract.


“I agreed to sign and the pictures were taken with me holding the jersey up and a couple of days later those pictures were leaked onto the internet.


“When Gaddafi's son, who ran the Libyan association, found out, he decided to bring in this rule.


“It was the most bizarre rule ever – any player that comes from a professional league in Europe, who represents the Libyan national team, can not play in the Libyan league until he is 30 years of age or older.


“It was made for me, just to prevent me from signing. He just didn't like the fact I turned his team down. He had the power to do what he wanted, and that's what he done.”


Listen to the Extratime.ie Sportscast with Dec Marron and Dave Donnelly every Wednesday here, on Mixcloud or on iTunes.