Since arriving in the UAE 12 months ago, Stevie Campbell has thrown himself into Dubai life.
The GEMS Metropole PE teacher is a prominent figure at the Motor City school, taking no less than three football teams and a basketball team in his first year, as well as organising a football development tour to Madrid.
What many of his students and colleagues may not know, is that the 31-year old Scotsman was, until recently, a high-level professional footballer, playing with and against household names in front of thousands on a weekly basis.
The talented Fifer signed for Glasgow Rangers when he was 12 years old and turned professional the day after leavingschool at the age of 16.
“Signing for the team I grew up supporting was an incredible feeling. At that time the club had some huge names – Gascoigne, Laudrup, Van Bronckhurst – so being given the chance to follow in their footsteps was a dream come true."
Campbell took to life at Murray Park like a duck to water, and his performances did not go unnoticed. Although not tall for a centre-half, Campbell’s pace, aerial ability and composure on the ball earned him a call-up to the Scotland National Team, which he captained at U19 level.
“That Scotland (U19) team had a lot of talented players, and we enjoyed considerable success at the European Championships in 2004. Many of the guys were able to go on to bigger and better things – Charlie Adam, Ross Mckormack, Charlie Mulgrew – have gone on to play in the Premier League.”
Although Campbell was deemed by the coaching staff to be the pick of the bunch, his career was blighted with injuries during his time with Rangers.
“We were playing Aberdeen and I broke my leg. I fought back to fitness, but I couldn’t quite shake off the injuries.”
Campbell remained at Rangers until the age of 21, when an opportunity to play professionally on the other side of the world in Perth, Australia, came up.
“Playing in Australia was an amazing experience. The last part of my time at Rangers hadn’t been a happy one with the injuries, so a change of scenery was much needed. The standard of football was good, but there wasn’t so much pressure and I was able to enjoy the game again.”
Just as Campbell found his stride, disaster struck once again.
“I broke my leg during a training session and that was the end of the road for me in Perth. I flew home to Scotland to recover and figure out my next move.”
It was then that Stevie began to think of a future outside of professional sports.
“I began to realise just how fragile a career in sport could be, so I began to look ahead to life after football. I’d always loved PE at school, and got on well with my PE teachers. I’d also gained some experience football coaching, so decided to apply.”
Campbell was accepted to study PE Teaching at Stirling University, and combined his studies with a part-time playing career at semi-professional side, East Fife.
"Combining part-time football with my degree worked well for me. It allowed me to build towards my future, whilst still earning enough money to live comfortably."
Campbell enjoyed eight years at the ‘Fife’, captaining them to the League Two title in 2016-17; his final season.
It was then that an opportunity cropped up to move – this time with his new profession.
“Chris and Lynsey Seeley were my teachers when I was at high school. I’d kept in touch with Chris over the years, and he got in touch with me to say there may be an opening with GEMS Metropole. I had a phone interview a couple of days later and got the job.”
Despite having left professional football behind, Campbell has not let himself fall into the sedentary trap of many footballers, and maintains a rigorous fitness regimen.
“I've stopped playing football, but I’m in the gym five times per week, and I'm in the shape of my life. I also love playing golf (he plays off a handicap of 4), and try to get out on the course at least once a week.”
Campbell says that despite missing some aspects of professional football, he is relishing his new environment.
“Obviously I miss playing in the big games in front of lots of people, but I absolutely love my job. We’ve got a fantastic PE department, and the kids here are a joy to teach. I’m delighted we made the move, and I'm looking forward to another great year here in Dubai.”