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.”
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