x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Al Ain’s new Hazza bin Zayed Stadium to open with a visit from Manchester City

The English Premier League side will play Al Ain in a friendly on January 14 as part of the opening ceremony for the Arabian Gulf League team’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

The new Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain will open with the inaugural match against Manchester City.
The new Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain will open with the inaugural match against Manchester City.

DUBAI // Al Ain FC has recruited some special guests to help it open its new home ground this month.

Manchester City will take on the Arabian Gulf League team in a friendly to wear in the turf at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on January 14.

Man City is a point behind English Premier League leaders Arsenal and one of this season’s main title contenders.

Al Ain, last year’s AGL champions, are in seventh place.

News of the match has created a buzz with football fans in the UAE, many of whom hope the visit will boost interest in the AGL, locally and abroad.

“This should be a good match and I hope Manchester City bring a strong team,” said Mohammed Al Khalid, an Emirati who supports Barcelona.

“Having a stadium like this will attract more fans and will get more people interested in going to the UAE league.

“I think many people here will continue to support the big European teams but they will also be more likely to show interest in the domestic competition.”

Pete Wallis, from the UK, said such a high-profile friendly would encourage more people to support local sides.

“It’s great that Al Ain have this new stadium and that City are opening it for a friendly,” said Mr Wallis, a Bolton Wanderers supporter.

“It’s good that people all over the world like the big famous clubs but they should also give their support to their home-city teams as well.

“That is the only way football will continue to grow and encourage local people to take up the sport here.”

The Al Ain team toured and trained in their 25,000-seat home for the first time on Tuesday.

“These facilities are without doubt some of the best in the region,” said club captain Helal Saeed.

“We feel extremely proud of this stadium and cannot wait to play the second round of the season here.”

The stadium is part of a development that covers 500,000 square metres and includes 700 apartments, green spaces, two office buildings, 50 restaurants and shops and a 170-room hotel.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, chairman of Al Ain FC, was full of praise for the stadium.

“The Hazza bin Zayed Stadium sets new standards with its sophisticated designs, engineering and world-class facilities that reflect our passions for the game and our vision for the future,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

“We are sure it will be a successful platform for our team to reach our goals. The stadium also offers our fans closer position to the action and an enhanced line of sight that means none of the action will be missed.”

Al Ain’s star Emirati midfielder Omar Abdulrahman said: “We are thrilled with the new stadium. It provides a great platform for a new start and a renewed strength to our club.

“We are very proud to call this our home and we are sure all our fans and supporters will be happy with all it offers.”

The stadium covers an area of 45,000 square metres, and at 50 metres is one of the tallest buildings in Al Ain City.

Col Ahmed Al Shehhi, chief of the special events division at Al Ain Police, has led a meeting to discuss preparations and security plans for the friendly.

newsdesk@thenational.ae