ABU DHABI // This week's eagerly anticipated football match between the UAE national team and Manchester City, from the English Premier League, will be the first real test for Zayed Sports City's refurbished stadium. The game, due to kick off on Thursday evening, will be played on a new pitch made of grass that requires 50 per cent less water than the conventional turf, while journalists will watch from a newly built, hi-tech media area and fans will sit in refurbished, multi-coloured seats.
Work to meet the high standards set by Fifa, the international governing body of football, ahead of the Club World Cup next month is all but done. However, just four months ago the pitch was practically bare and extensive work was under way to give the 45,000-seat stadium a major facelift. Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium has also been upgraded ahead of the Club World Cup, with improved players' changing rooms, VIP seating areas and media facilities.
There will also be a special park-and-ride system in place to help fans get to and from the games. From December 9, the two venues will play host to footballers from across the globe taking part in the 11-day tournament. Six continental club champions, including the European title-holders Barcelona and the South American Copa Libertadores victors Estudiantes, from Argentina, will join the UAE Pro League champions Al Ahli in the competition to lift the tournament trophy at Zayed Sports City in the final on December 19. "We are really looking forward to having thousands of fans enjoy a great sporting spectacle in our national stadium," said a spokesman for the competition's local organising committee.
"Everyone who comes to the stadium, whether they be fans or players, will benefit from the upgrades." Thursday's match also will be a preliminary test for the operations team responsible for ensuring the Club World Cup tournament runs smoothly. About 150 volunteers from Takatof, which was praised for its efforts during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will look after visitors at both events.