2011 Professional Footballer’s Association of Ireland (PFAI) Player of the Year; Eamon Zayed has moved to Tehran and is going down a storm in the city where the Republic of Ireland secured qualification to the 2002 World Cup.
The Dublin native, who has represented Libya (and the Republic of Ireland at U-21 level) at senior international level, through his Libyan father; signed for Iran Pro League club Persepolis just before Christmas on a six month contract.
Iran’s game of the season is the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal FC with some fans claiming they’d prefer to win the derby than the league title. Zayed came on as a 70th minute sub in what was his third appearance (all as sub) with the game apparently petering out as Esteghlal were comfortably 2-0 ahead with Persepolis down to ten men. Esteghlal hadn’t prepared for Zayed’s arrival however. On 83 minutes; he put his side back in the game with a composed right foot finish. Two minutes later, he sent the 92,000 home fans into raptours with an unlikely headed equaliser. Deep into injury-time; the Irishman made himself a folk hero, popping up to net with a composed turn and finish from 10 yards out to spark wild celebrations from substitutes and officials, who invaded the pitch amidst incredible scenes in the stands.
One Persepolis fan got a little overly carried away; suffering a heart attack and dying before arriving in hospital. Zayed has since been hailed as a hero in the Middle Eastern city; with him reporting to Newstalk radio that he has had people buying him dinner whilst many have walked up to him in the streets and handed him money. Zayed was the first non-Iranian to score a hat-trick in the Tehran derby and won the ”World Player of the Week” award from Goal.com as a reward for his efforts. Coming back to play in the Airtricity League next month will be a rather different experience to this!