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Former Aston Villa star Jlloyd Samuel saw a sheep sacrificed on the pitch in Iran

Jlloyd Samuel


Thesun - PLAYERS looking for a payday abroad have seen Jlloyd Samuel pave the way . . . in Iran!

Premier League stars are attracted to America, Dubai and China but the Persian Gulf country was the unlikely destination for the former Aston Villa defender.

Top Iranian clubs are willing to pay up to £20,000 a week and Samuel said: “They are prepared to spend. For me, financially it was definitely a better move.”

The 34-year-old is back in England and ready for anything after four years in Iran.

And he insists his experience of local customs such as sacrificing SHEEP on the pitch have made him stronger.

After Premier League football he was ready for a new challenge and culture but nobody had told him about that tradition.

Samuel explained: “The other players walked through the blood or put it over themselves and treated it like nothing happened.

“It was on the pitch — something they do for good luck, to change the spirit and, hopefully, you’ll win games. Nobody told me it was going to happen so I was shocked.

“It is what they believe in, so I have no qualms about it. I just wish someone told me it was going to happen!

“When I saw the sheep coming out the next time, I turned my back.”

It was one of the memorable moments of a rollercoaster journey away from England. Samuel played for Bolton after a long spell at Villa, then moved on to Iran.

He is now looking for an English club again and reckons his experiences of playing in the Asian Champions League will help in the final years of his career.

When he joined his first Iranian club, Esteghlal, he felt none of the political tension that is associated with Iran — but it was still a world away from the Premier League.

He said: “The first surprise was the weather. I thought it would be a hot climate like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, being in the Middle East. I got there and it was snowing!

“I had to learn the language, which was not easy, but I wanted to talk to the players and you want information on the pitch and to live.

“You come from the Western world, where things are different. I couldn’t walk around the streets with shorts on, even in summer time. The only time you were wearing shorts was when we were playing matches.

“They have nice restaurants and coffee shops but as a dry country there was no alcohol and these are the things you have to adapt to.”

The football set-up was very different, too. He explained: “I believe football is caught up in a bubble and this was the real world.

“After playing at the highest level, I went there and had to wash my own kit. The pitches weren’t up to scratch. I played a few games where I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’, but then you get used to it.

“The fans are fanatical, which I didn’t realise. There were amazing scenes. I don’t think many players have played in front of 100,000 people.”

Samuel has started his own range of Futurz trainers and the plan is to put his wide-ranging experience to good use on the pitch again.

He said: “I’m definitely a stronger player in all aspects. I’m 34 now and revamped myself.”

After coping with sacrificed sheep, his next challenge will seem easy.

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