x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Football stadiums in the UAE that stir the fans' emotions

When asked, most Pro League supporters mentioned four: Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain's Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, Al Wasl's Zabeel Stadium and Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City.

Rival fans tell our columnist, Omar Al Raisi, they enjoy visiting Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium for its
Rival fans tell our columnist, Omar Al Raisi, they enjoy visiting Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium for its "futuristic qualities".

The UAE is home to some of the best football stadiums in the region, arenas that have hosted World Cup qualifiers, the Fifa Youth World Championship and the Fifa Club World Cup.

But which stadiums are most popular with fans?

When asked, most Pro League supporters mentioned four: Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain's Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, Al Wasl's Zabeel Stadium and Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City.

Ÿ Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Al Jazira lead the league in average attendance (15,159) and attract a high number of expatriates and women to their games. The club drew a league-record crowd of 28,164 for a match against Al Wasl.

Their stadium - which will host the UAE's Olympic qualifier against Australia tomorrow night - has undergone massive redevelopment in recent years that increased the capacity from 15,000 to 42,000.

"The number of Al Jazira's home fans is really impressive as they really get a good crowd. You enjoy the game thrice as much than the stadium being more than half empty," said Faisal Hamadi, a fan of Al Nasr. "Also, we see a lot of expats at their games so it's great that they are showing an interest in the Pro League."

Fans also appreciate that they are close to the field at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

"The design … is futuristic; there is no runway track around the pitch which makes you feel closer to the action just like the stadiums in the English Premier League," Haroon Mohammed, an Al Ain fan, said.

Ÿ Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium. This is one of two home grounds for Al Ain (the other is the Al Qattara Stadium). It was built to hold 12,000 people and now holds 16,000.

Al Ain have arguably the best support in the Pro League and come close to filling the stadium every week. More than 12,000 fans cheered the team to victory against Al Wahda earlier this month. The fans create an electrifying atmosphere with choreographed chants.

"I love visiting the Al Ain stadium just because their fans always create a party environment," said Saeed Mahmoud, an Al Jazira supporter.

Abdullah Al Baloushi, an Al Wasl fan, said: "Their fans really put on a show for every game; they are very vocal and never stop singing even if the team is losing."

Ÿ Zabeel Stadium. Al Wasl's home ground is not posh, but the popularity of the club has rocketed since Diego Maradona joined as the coach last summer.

The stadium holds 18,000 people and this season, there are banners and choreographed chants for Maradona and his players. Fans look forward to Maradona's theatrics on the touchline.

"I think most visiting fans of any team looks forward to the Wasl game just so they can get a glimpse of Maradona and that's why I love the stadium and the support of their fans," said Tarek Mohammad, an Al Shabab fan.

Other fans agree that a chance to see Maradona makes Zabeel Stadium an intriguing place to visit.

"I like visiting Zabeel stadium, I think it has to do with Maradona," Mansoor Al Shamsi, an Al Ahli supporter, said. "It's in everybody's head that Maradona will be on the touchline and it makes us excited to visit the stadium."

ŸZayed Sports City. The 49,500-capacity arena serves as UAE's national stadium and stages cup finals, big international games and many international events.

"Whenever there is a big game, it's always packed and fans of all clubs come together and unite for the cause of the national team," said Saud Talal.

"I love the atmosphere at the stadium; it makes me feel like it's the home to UAE football," Abdul Aziz said.

 

sports@thenational.ae