The 44,000-seater venue, which will also stage the opening ceremony, was inspected by a delegation of AFC, FIFA and Abu Dhabi Sports Council figures during a visit last Monday.
According to a list proposed to the AFC in January, the stadia will be one of three in Abu Dhabi, with matches also held at Al Jazira’s Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and Al Wahda’s Al Nahyan Stadium in the nation’s capital.
In Al Ain, Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa bin Zayed will also be used, while Al Wasl’s Zabeel Stadium and the proposed Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum stadium are Dubai’s representatives. Sharjah Stadium will be the only venue in the northern emirate.
ZSC are no strangers to hosting top football matches. Besides the UAE President’s Cup finals, including this weekend’s clash between Al Jazira and Al Ain, the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cup matches have also been played.
And Maria Gedeon, director of marketing at ZSC is relishing the challenge of delivering excellent results.
“We are extremely excited and nervous at the same time but we know that we have the capability of hosting such large scale events,” Gedeon said.
“We have done it with the Club World Cup. I have never seen the stadium as full when we hosted Barcelona and Inter Milan in the final (2009 and 2010) and we are happy to be working with the AFC.”
Ahead of the premier continental competition, the venue will be a training facility for the 2017 and 2018 FIFA Club World Cups.
“The Zayed Sports City stadium will also be used as a practice venue for the FIFA Club World Cup which will be hosted by UAE in 2017 and 2018,” added Gedeon. “We are not going to have the FIFA Club World Cup matches but it will be used for practice. This is good for us as we want to get the stadium ready for the Asian Cup which is a much bigger event.”
She confirmed that renovation work is already under way with new turnstiles being installed as well as upgrades to CCTV and facilities, although the capacity will not be increased.
The news that the Asian showpiece event title will be decided in their complex caps a remarkable period for the multi-sport venue having exceeded targets for revenue and number of events in 2015.
Last year, a total of 222 competitions were hosted, including the World Gaelic Athletic Assocation Championship and the World Bowling Championship.
And with excellent facilities to choose from, Barry Bremner, general manager of ZSC is adamant on delivering more positive results.
“Our main focus at ZSC is to provide new and varied experiences for our customers,” said Bremner. “Our efforts have attracted major global and local events while introducing a wide array of new events and programmes.
“These offerings are perfectly aligned with our mission to bring health and fitness activities to Abu Dhabi, making a direct impact on the health and quality of life for UAE residents.”
The Qatar Football Election chief was selected on Saturday as leader of the newly-inaugurated body, which aims to revolutionise the administration of the sport in the Middle East. A final name was also chosen for it in Doha, changing from Arabian Gulf Football Federation to reflect the importance of the Middle East’s premier international tournament.
He will be supported by UAE Football Association supremo Marwan bin Ghalita, who was voted in unopposed as vice-president by the eight member nations. Al Thani chose to thank both his new No2 and the man he beat last month in the UAE FA elections, Yousuf Al Serkal, during his victory address.
He said: “I know the GCF has shown great confidence in me and I assure I will do my best to take the game forward in this region.
“Everyone knows the importance of the Gulf Cup, which has been continuing for more than 40 years. We must now push it forward.
“I also want to thank Yousuf Al Serkal for his stint as president of the UAE Football Association and offer my congratulations to the new president, Marwan bin Ghalita. I wish him success in his work.”
Al Ain boss Zlatko Dalic chose to praise the character of his ailing side despite a last-gasp implosion which threatened their progression to the President’s Cup final.
The dethroned Arabian Gulf League champions were 2-0 ahead as last night’s scrappy semi-final against Bani Yas headed towards the final whistle. A pair of goals from forward Ishak Belfodil and centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman then produced a stunning end to the 90 minutes, with South Korea international Lee Myung-joo saving the 2014 winners’ blushes with a composed finish during extra time.
“We were very aggressive and very compact for 90 minutes,” said 49-year-old Dalic, who will battle Al Jazira at Zayed Sports City next Sunday for the trophy. “But in two minutes we gave two goals away when everybody said it was over – but it is not until the last minute.
“My team showed a lot of character. All season, it has been a tough time for us.
“To finish the game was a tough job for us, but Inshallah it will be okay and we deserved to win.”
This shock collapse followed a disappointing 1-1 draw with Zob Ahan during their round-of-16 opener in the AFC Champions League, with the tricky decider coming in Iran on Wednesday.
Opposite number Dr Abdullah Miser refused to wallow in misery about a match which, fleetingly, promised so much.
He said: “Don’t tell me hard luck, because this is football. My players played their heart out and were very good all throughout the match.”
The 54-year-old has revived a club going nowhere under predecessor Luis Garcia since his arrival from the UAE Under-23s in March. This was just a third loss in seven matches, and he hoped to be given a longer window to prove his worth next term.
He said: “I didn’t get lot of time with this club, but if we had more time I can get good results.”