Éamon Zayed is Indy Eleven's leading goal scorer (3) this season and sits tied for third in the league in that column. The Irish-born forward won the League of Ireland Player of the Year award in 2011 while scoring 23 goals for Derry City. Zayed is the final installment of our "11 with the Eleven" series until the fall season begins in early July.
NUVO: What has been the key to the fantastic start to the season for the squad?
Éamon Zayed: I think the key has been the coach bringing in an experienced squad. From day one the whole squad — including the coaching staff — has gelled and got along together. I do feel we play as a team and we’re all friends and I think it shows when we’re on the pitch. Some of the games when we’ve been a goal down and we’ve pulled through as a team to get an equalizer or to go on to win the game. So basically the coach has come in — he’s experienced — and he’s brought in a squad of more experienced players. That has been the key to being undefeated right now.
NUVO: You had a 10-minute hat-trick a few years back. Can you take me through how that went down?
Zayed: The hat-trick was in February. I signed for a team with a six-month short term contract halfway though the season in Iran for a team called Persepolis, which is the biggest team in Asia perhaps and definitely the biggest team in Iran. Prior to this game I had been training with the team for a month and I wasn’t getting any game time. The manager had brought me in during the month of training and pretty much before that game decided that he wasn’t going to use me. The president of the club stepped in and said that he must give me chance. The game was a derby, definitely the biggest game in Asia. I wasn’t aware of that at the time, perhaps that helped because when I went onto the pitch I was extremely comfortable and I didn’t fell any pressure. Whereas some of my teammates did feel the pressure. But we were two goals down and I was on the bench then coach brought me in and we had a player sent off so we were down to 10 men. It was a bit of a dream. I think the other team kind of switched off and then I scored the first goal. Two minutes later — before they had any time to think — I scored the second goal and it was two all and then pretty much the last kick of the game I scored the third goal to make it 3-2. It was definitely a big moment in my career. That propelled me into the limelight in Iran and I ended up staying there for another year and a half.
NUVO: Speaking of goals, how did it feel to score a goal for the Libya national team?
Zayed: That was a proud moment. I’m born and bred in Ireland. My mom is from Ireland and growing up I had dreamed of playing for the Irish National Team. I played for the under-18 team, the under-20 team and the under-21 team but to make that step up to the senior team is obviously difficult. So I never got that chance to make it to the Irish senior team and that was a dream of mine. But on the flip side my father is Libyan and I have a lot of family over in Libya so they asked me to represent them in 2010 and I was insanely proud to go over there and put on the jersey and to score your first international goal for a country and to have the whole country behind you, it was a special moment. Obviously it was a big moment for me but I could see it was perhaps a bigger moment for my father and my family over in Libya. They were extremely proud and the fact they were proud of me and happy makes me a little bit more happy.
NUVO: You mentioned Ireland, what are some advantages of having a fellow countrymen on the roster?
Zayed: Honestly it’s great. Colin has been fantastic to me. Obviously he’s the captain but regardless of that, from day one when I first started at Indy Eleven. I remember the first meeting I sat beside him. I knew of him from Ireland because Ireland is a small country and people know people that play soccer but I had never met him before. We had a chat, had a few friends and common and we just clicked. I’m completely new, not only to Indy Eleven, but to soccer in America. So in terms of helping me understand the league and how it works and even having someone to go for a coffee or a bite to eat, it’s been great.
NUVO: What has been your favorite part about Indianapolis since moving here?
Zayed: My favorite thing has been the people. I don’t know if it’s a Midwest thing or not but the people are completely friendly which is very similar to Ireland. If you’re a new person and travel to Ireland, they’re extremely friendly. They’ll talk to you and make you feel comfortable and at ease. I feel like that’s something the people here in Indianapolis have done.
NUVO: What would you say is your go-to goal celebration?
Zayed: It’s a difficult one because when you score a goal it depends on … is the goal an equalizer? Is the goal to put the team ahead? Or is it just a goal to try and get back in the game. So the celebration is different in terms of what the goal actually means. When I scored [the winner] against the New York Cosmos this season I really really enjoyed jumping into the crowd. I know it’s cliche but the fans can really be the 12th man and really can spur the team on to get that equalizer or winning goal and I really enjoy celebrating with the fans.
NUVO: I got word that you’re playing in Bob Kravitz charity golf outing. Any chance of you shooting under 100 these days?
Zayed: Ohh that’s a big ask. Golf is obviously massive in Ireland and I do like playing it but I’m not great — I’m not going to lie. I think my last game was approximately a year ago. I’m going with Nicki Paterson, he was meant to be a putt-putt golfer so expect him to definitely shoot under 100 but I’m not sure about me. Hopefully if we combine our scores the both of us will be under 200.
NUVO: Do you have an pets?
Zayed: No I don’t actually. I haven’t been brought up with pets but if I had a pet it would be a dog.
NUVO: What has been your favorite part of playing for teams throughout the world?
Zayed: Easy..getting to know a different futból environment. I feel futból outside of Europe and Ireland and England. It differs to Malaysia and to Iran and to America. Just the culture and how it is viewed and played and preparation on the field/off the field. I’m really enjoying getting to know different aspects, different philosophies, different ideas. That’s definitely the big thing about me playing for different teams and when I finish playing soccer I’d like to go into coaching and hopefully that will help.
NUVO: Which country has had the best food?
Zayed: I’m an absolute massive foodie. I love cooking. It sounds silly but I think Irish food is the best. I didn’t realize that until I traveled to all these other countries. I love experiencing different foods and I love traveling different countries. Every country has their separate dish and idea on foods. I have to say I miss my Irish food.
NUVO: What’s your favorite dish from Ireland?
Zayed: It’s definitely an Irish Shepard’s Pie. My mom makes a great Irish Shepard’s Pie so that’s it.
[Editors note: Mom always has the best food.]