The result on the pitch might not have gone their way but the thousands of Al Ain fans who turned up against Al Dhafra were wowed by the place they can now call home.
Al Ain’s new Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium was opened to the public just 17 months after construction began and 22,400 supporters – a league high this season and record for a football match in the Garden City – were in no mood to wait any longer to see the state-of-the-art facility up close.
The stadium was a hive of activity hours before kick-off but while many fans had to wait patiently to find their seats, once they were in they were all in agreement – the club has a new abode to be proud of.
“I am very happy because this is one of the best stadiums in the Middle East not only the UAE,” 25-year-old Khaled Basuwaid said as he waited to enter the ground.
“It will encourage them to do the best they can do and not only for the club but for the country too. When the UAE will play here they will be so proud. They will give anything they can to win.”
Ten-year-old Nasser Ahmed was at the game with his uncle and concurred with Khaled, saying: “Inshallah, it will help us become the best team in the Gulf.”
It was not only devoted Ainawai who were in attendance, with official figures suggesting there was a record number of families in the ground.
Ali and Abdulaziz Almarbouei and their friend Ali Al Junaibi were attracted not by the football but by the “beautiful” stadium. And, that ensured there were some expats at the game too.
Kerri and Richard Shreeve had watched the structure rise up from their Al Ain home and felt compelled to check out the finished article.
“It’s amazing, we like it. We’re just surprised there are so many people already here,” American Kerri said.
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