University of Sheffield language student lands football pundit job in China

Richard Heathcote.
Richard Heathcote.

A former Yorkshire language student has landed a job as a football pundit in China.

Richard Heathcote, from Cambridge, and Matilda Sheng, who met at the University of Sheffield, star in an Youtube series talking about how their relationship with each other, and the East Asian country, has shaped their lives.

-> Bradford's National Media Museum returns to being independent cinema operator

Now living in Shanghai, the friends met in 2009 when they took part in tandem learning classes at the university.

The classes were an informal way to practice another language – for Richard his Mandarin, for Matilda her English.

Their chance encounter led to a firm friendship, with Richard and Matilda visiting different cities together and even hosting Sheffield’s Chinese New Year Gala in 2010.

-> An epic movie about tribal Iron Age Britain is going to be filmed in Yorkshire

Now, a decade after meeting, Richard has landed his dream job – as a football pundit, reporting in Mandarin Chinese, for China websites Bilibili and Weibo.

He said: "Because Mandarin is such an important global language now and because there are comparatively few people who can do it well, I now sort of by chance work in football, I get the chance to talk about football in Chinese every day which is an absolute dream

"The job I do now, where I get to run around football grounds every weekend and talk to passionate football fans and keep up with the Premiere League and help Chinese people access the football culture in this country - I mean what an absolute joy. I mean nobody would come to me and say 'hey, you’re the guy for this' if they were just asking me to speak about it in English, so hands down studying Mandarin is the best decision I’ve ever made and it has impacted my life massively."

It is the latest in a line of exciting roles for Richard, who has also starred in a Chinese sitcom.

Matilda, who returned to China after her studies, works in marketing in Shanghai.

She and her husband have son – who was given a second English name, Harry, by Richard.

-> Bradford’s decade as city of film – The Yorkshire Post says

Richard and Matilda’s story is being featured in a series of 35 videos called Encounters in China which went live this week on the China Icons Youtube Channel with the support of York-based Meridian Line Films.