x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New football digs for Al Ain will be completed in October

Billed as the most modern stadium in the country, Hazza bin Zayed Stadium will be the new home for two-time Pro League champion Al Ain and will host some Fifa Under 17 World Cup matches next year, writes John McAuley.

Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain is due for completion in October before the Fifa U17 World Cup and is expected to have a 25,000-seat capacity. Illustration courtesy of Al Ain Club Investment Company
Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain is due for completion in October before the Fifa U17 World Cup and is expected to have a 25,000-seat capacity. Illustration courtesy of Al Ain Club Investment Company

Al Ain's fortunes seem set to continue on an upward trajectory with the Pro League champions soon to relocate to a new, state-of-the-art stadium.

The stadium, nearing completion in the Al Jimi sector of the city, will be named the "Hazza bin Zayed Stadium", it was revealed on the official Twitter account of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Sheikh Hazza is the National Security Advisor and Vice Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, as well as the senior vice president of Al Ain club.

The posting read: "Mohammed bin Zayed names the new Al Ain Club stadium 'Hazza bin Zayed Stadium' during his tour of the most modern football stadium in the UAE."

The facility, to be used as a multipurpose stadium to stage not only sporting contests but also entertainment events, is due for completion this October, coinciding with the beginning of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup. The tournament, featuring 24 national team sides, including the UAE, runs from October 17 to November 8 with matches to be hosted in all seven emirates. At present, games in Al Ain are scheduled to be held at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium.

The Hazza bin Zayed Stadium could become the jewel among the nation's stadiums as it is expected to surpass Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium as the most modern in the country.

Home to Al Jazira, the Pro League club, renovations began in 2006 as its capacity was increased to 42,000. The venue hosted three matches during the Fifa Club World Cup in 2009 and again in 2010, and has also been used to stage cricket matches.

The Hazza bin Zayed Stadium is expected to seat at least 25,000, but details on the capacity and cosmetics of the structure have yet to be publicised.

A Pro League executive told The National: "It's a very modern stadium, very luxurious in its design. It provides a lot of corporate hospitality and corporate suites. Both sides of the touchline could be considered VIP areas and, in a country where VIP seating is important, that's very significant.

"From the outside, it looks like a very impressive design and is coming together quickly now. Gaps in the structure of the roof are being filled. The roof circles the stadium, but it is not enclosed; it is not a retractable roof.

"I get a sense that hosting the Under 17s may have accelerated the time line for the stadium."

The arrival of the new stadium will only strengthen Al Ain's present position at the top of UAE football. The club are the country's most decorated in terms of league titles (11) and only last month became the first side to seal successive championships since the country's top flight was fully professionalised, in 2008.

Al Ain currently play their home matches at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium, although, like many stadiums in the country, it lacks amenities associated with modern facilities.

The club offices are located near Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, but the first team uses it solely as a training facility.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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