A British teacher has made history by becoming the first female football commentator at a major sports event in the UAE.
Amy Gillingham, 29, from Southport in the UK, spent 90 minutes giving real-time commentary when Al Jazira played Shabab Al-Ahli in the Super Cup final in Al Ain on January 7.
Referring to the moment as a “dream come true”, she said the opportunity came about after a chance meeting at a car wash in Ras Al Khaimah.
“At first, it sounds a bit barmy when I say I got the job after being approached at a car wash, but that is exactly how it came about,” she told The National.
“I was waiting for my car to get washed and was kicking a ball about with some of the workers and a young boy. The father of the boy approached me and we just started talking about football. I have played since I was a kid, so I had lots to say.”
It transpired that the man worked for the Adnoc Pro League Football and he inquired about Ms Gillingham's involvement in the game.
“After about 15 minutes, he asked if I would be interested in commentating at a game," she said.
“If someone asked me what my dream job would be, a sports commentator would be it so I immediately said yes and jumped at the chance.”
A little over a month later, she found herself sitting in front of a microphone in the commentator’s box at Al Ain's Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement, Ms Gillingham, who teaches sports at a cluster of public schools in Ras Al Khaimah, said she spent weeks researching facts about each player and even turned up on the day with a whiteboard.
“My co-commentator was Graham Clews. He is a big name in sports broadcasting here and he just laughed when he saw how prepared I was,” she said.
“I am so confident about football, it really is my passion, but I just wanted to make the best impression I could. I was going to be doing it live, so didn’t want to make any mistakes.
“As soon as that game started, I zoned out and fell right into the role of commentator.”
As a teenager up to when she was in her 20s, Ms Gillingham played football for Liverpool Feds and FC United of Manchester before making the trip to the UAE in 2017.
She has been obsessed with the sport since she was a kid, with her competitiveness stemming from her relationship with her older brother.
After impressing the crowd and football pundits at the Super Cup final, she has since signed a contract with the Pro Football league commentate on their games, which are shown on AD Sports Dubai Sports and Sharjah Sports in the UAE and Mena region.
“I honestly feel like I want to pinch myself because I am just loving every minute of this,” she said.
“For big games like the cup final, I had a co-commentator but for my next game, I will be doing it alone, so that is going to be interesting.
“I remember some of my female pupils coming up to me in school so excitedly telling me they heard me at the match; they were so proud.
“If I can inspire more girls to take up the sport in the process, I will be a happy lady because that really is my motivation.”