I don’t believe in fate, divine intervention or any other codswallop that suggests our lives are pre-determined in any way. However, as the rain lashed down on a typically British July morning in 2011, something told me to switch off the TV, fire up my laptop and check my LinkedIn account for the first time in months. There, at the top of my Inbox, was a message saying, “Hi Richard, my name’s Andy. Would you be interested in a job presenting our English Premier League programmes on Mio Stadium TV in Singapore?” Er, has Kool got a Gang, Andy? Thanks very much!
My only previous experience of life in Asia had been a week-long trip to Chengdu, China, where the cultural differences to the UK were so vast that I felt as though I’d been transported to Mars. However, for the chance to work as the lead presenter on national television I would happily have accepted a job in Burkina Faso.
Thankfully, settling in Singapore was easier than finishing a two-piece jigsaw, and my girlfriend and I are happily ensconced in our expat-clichéd East Coast condo with a couple of kittens for good measure.
In some respects – and even though I’ve made a conscious effort to embrace Asian culture – life has changed very little; I’ve even found a football team to play for called British Hotspurs. Mind you, 3pm kick-offs in the Singapore heat should be strictly reserved for the mad and the masochistic. On my debut I started promisingly, but after 20 minutes my body and mind wilted in the heat and I found myself stumbling around aimlessly, looking lost and confused, like a politician without his trusty spin-doctor. Thankfully, it has become easier over time – although, at 38 years of age, I really should be trying to perfect my golf swing rather than chase lads half my age around a football pitch in the blazing sunshine.
Eighteen months on from my relocation to Singapore, I found myself in unfamiliar territory, walking along a red carpet with snap-happy photographers flashing away at the Asian Television Awards after my nomination for Best Sports Presenter. To be perfectly honest, I think the photographers were slightly more interested in the statuesque Taiwanese actress who was shaking her rather delightful tail feather a few yards ahead of me in a diamond-encrusted dress that no doubt cost more than my car, but I was happy to milk the moment for a few seconds before making a beeline for the complimentary champagne.
It was the first time I’d been in the running for an individual award since I trousered Player of the Year for my Under 16 football team, and I only won that because my dad was the manager. So, no disrespect to my former teammates or my father, but the prospect of winning a highly coveted industry award felt just a tad more important than collecting a trophy that was so cheap and tacky that even Arsene Wenger would have turned it down.
The big dilemma beforehand was whether or not to prepare a speech. You want to be off the cuff but well rehearsed, and it needed to be something I could memorise rather than having to reveal an A4 pad of notes as I arrived at the dais.
In the end I stuck to four lines – incredibly funny lines they were too I might add. But alas, that glorious speech never saw the light of day (not in 2012 anyway; I might keep it up my sleeve for this year…), as I was pipped for the award by my erstwhile Mio TV colleague Dominic Lau.
Ever the professional, I clapped and smiled through gritted teeth just in case the cameras were trained on my reaction. I needn’t have worried, every camera in the building was still focusing on the diamond-loving Taiwanese actress…
Richard Lenton presents Football Faceoff (Friday 10pm) and Tiger It’s Your Shout! (Monday 10pm) on MioStadium channel 102.