x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Opening match is a moment to savour for supporters

Amith Passela speaks with the fans at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

The crowd watch the Al Ain match at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Pawan Singh / The National
The crowd watch the Al Ain match at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Pawan Singh / The National

“I travelled all the way from Ajman for this historic occasion ... it’s an amazing feeling.”

Despite Al Ain’s failure to win last night, the trip made by Khalid Mohammed, a third-year engineering student from the Sharjah University, was not a wasted one.

Simply attending the game at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium was a treat.

From the outside it is striking, and once inside it offers a match-day experience UAE football fans will not have experienced on these shores.

Being only the second state-of-the-art football stadium in the country, after Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium is compact and brings the fans closer to the pitch than at most grounds in the Emirates.

For those with seats in the first few rows, it is akin to having a ringside seat of a boxing contest. If the new stadium helps draw more fans to matches – and Al Ain already have the country’s largest fan base – it can only help improve the club’s results. Footballers generally prefer playing in front of large crowds.

Khalifa Al Kaabi, an Al Ain fan for more than a decade, said the general mood was of “joy and pride” at Al Ain’s new home.

“This is the feeling of the majority of the fans,” he said. “It is an iconic structure and everyone from the fans, players, to the citizens of Al Ain deserve to have a stadium of this stature.

“The facilities for the fans are fantastic. I booked and received my ticket online. Access to the stadium was so easy. This will encourage more fans to attend the games and get behind the team in support.”