UAE: Former PE teacher-turned-football commentator reflects on 2 years of 'job of her dreams'

Amy Gillingham made headlines when she burst onto the scene as the country’s first female football commentator

By Harriet Shephard

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Sat 4 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 May 2024, 10:24 PM

The UAE is renowned for being a land of opportunities, and it has certainly provided former PE teacher Amy Gillingham with the job of her dreams.

Just over two years ago, the Ras Al Khaimah resident made headlines when she burst onto the scene as the country’s first female football commentator. Since then, she has established herself as a regular reporter for Abu Dhabi TV, and a commentator for the UAE Pro League, the Saudi Pro League and the Saudi Women's Premier League.

Originally from Merseyside, England, the 32-year-old's new-found career has also given her the chance to interview some of the world’s most famous players.

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She said: “Working at the Dubai Super Cup back in December 2022 was a big moment for me. I got to interview players from the biggest clubs in the world like Liverpool, Arsenal, AC Milan and Olympic Lyonnais, and provide commentary for the games, too. I also reported at the Globe Soccer Awards 2023 in Dubai. So many huge stars attended, and it was an amazing event to be a part of.”

Diehard Liverpool fan

Before moving to the UAE in 2016, Gillingham played semi-professional football for Liverpool Feds and FC United of Manchester. As a life-long football fanatic, her job feels like a dream come true.

“I’m a diehard Liverpool fan and so meeting Jürgen Klopp, James Milner and some of the other players was incredible.

Amy Gillingham with Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp (left).
Amy Gillingham with Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp (left).

“The UAE is really establishing itself as a hub for world football, and so many top clubs are using the country as a base for mid and preseason. I still pinch myself every day to be honest. I am very, very lucky and fortunate.”

With no prior presenting experience, she gained her exciting role quite by chance when she happened to meet someone with connections to the UAE Pro League at a car wash.

She said: “I’ve shadowed different commentators and I’ve learnt so much in the past two years. Joe Morrison, Graham Clews and Brian Murgatroyd are just some of the many who have helped me. They bring experience working for the Champions League, La Liga and the Premier League and I’m very grateful to be able to learn from some of the best in the industry.”

Prep before the game

Every match requires a great deal of preparation, and she has to be quick to react and think on her feet.

“I think a lot of people don't realise how much preparation goes into football commentary. I do roughly five hours of research per game, and I create post-it notes for every player and prepare facts and stats,” she explained.

“But no matter how much you plan, you still can’t predict what’s going to happen. I’m the voice of the game, so I’ve got to make sure I react instantly and add emotion and excitement. I’m under pressure to entertain and elevate the action. When I’m interviewing players, I also often don’t know who I will be speaking to until the last minute.”

Women in sports presenting roles

While Gillingham remains the only female football commentator in the UAE, she has noticed that more women are taking up sports presenting roles.

“I often get asked if I feel uncomfortable being one of the only women in the football industry, but in fact it’s the total opposite. I’ve been made to feel so welcome since the beginning, and I’ve gotten to know everyone who works at the stadiums and clubs by name. You hear horror stories about the things that some female presenters in other countries have experienced, but I’ve never faced anything like that here. If you have talent and a good idea, the UAE will support you and give you a platform.”

Saudi Arabia only established its women’s national team in 2021, and it has already started broadcasting women’s football live on television.

She said: “It’s remarkable what Saudi Arabia has done with the women’s game, especially considering that only a few years ago women weren't even allowed to enter a football stadium. The UAE Football Association is also putting a heavy focus on the women’s game, and I expect to see a lot of development in the coming years.”

When she is not reporting, Gillingham works as a sports coordinator for the Emirates School Establishment. She organises boys and girls football competitions and other sporting events across Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

“There are so many young aspiring female footballers in the UAE, and I hope my story will inspire more women and girls to enter the industry. For instance, I would love to see an Emirati or Arab woman commentating on the Arabic channel of Abu Dhabi TV. I want to encourage everyone to follow their dreams.”


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