Companies behind two of the UAE's largest infrastructure projects will go head to head after being named as sponsors of arch-rival football clubs.
Khalifa Port, Abu Dhabi's new state-of-the-art deepwater facility, will be the official sponsor of Al Ain Football Club in the Asian club competition, the AFC Champions League, while Etihad Rail has signed a three-year agreement with Al Jazira Sports Club.
Khalifa Port, which was inaugurated last December, is home to six of the largest ship-to-shore cranes, and is expected to be able to handle 35 million tonnes of general cargo by 2030.
Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), which manages the port, would not reveal the size of the sponsorship deal but a spokesman said it was more of an "economic partnership" than a commercial one.
Mohamed Al Shamisi, executive vice president of ports at ADPC and chairman of Abu Dhabi Terminals, said Al Ain had an unparalleled history that all Emiratis can be proud of.
"From ADPC's part, we are fully aware of the importance of the Asian markets as keen investors into the UAE. With the newly inaugurated Khalifa Port, we now have a greater opportunity to have increased maritime links with most Asian ports," he added.
Being associated with Al Ain, which won the AFC Champions League in 2003 and are the runaway league leaders this season, would help to support the marketing of the port, its infrastructure, technology and ability to accommodate the world's largest ships, he said.
"There is no doubt that the presence of Al Ain in AFC Champions League 2013, as one of the cup's previous holders, and now carrying the name and logo of Khalifa Port, will help to position the United Arab Emirates as one willing to go the extra mile to support its sporting heroes, while, in turn, Al Ain Club can provide a platform for highlighting one of the UAE's key achievements in modern times - a commercial maritime centre that has all it takes to attract investment and trade."
Supporting the economic development of the UAE is also a key aim of Etihad Rail - the developer and operator of the country's planned national railway network, which has been named as a sponsor of Al Jazira, UAE Football League champions for 2010-2011 and President's Cup champions for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.
Under the terms, Etihad Rail will become the club's strategic sponsor for the next three years and will have branding placement rights at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and on team jerseys, among other marketing benefits.
"Etihad Rail has always stood for distinction and utmost efficiency, having adopted best international practice in the development of our railway," said Nasser Saif Al Mansoori, the chief executive of Etihad Rail.
The partnership is in line with the company's vision and reflects its commitment to support local sports organisations, he added.
Hamad Al Hurr Al Suwaidi, a board member of Al Jazira Club and head of Al Jazira Club's professionalism committee, said the club had sought since its inception to strengthen relations with government bodies that contribute to the UAE's development.
"We are very pleased to be partnering with Etihad Rail, a national company that will improve the transport and logistics sector in the UAE by linking airports, seaports, and key centres of population and industry," he added.