Being a week in Abu Dhabi during late December 2019 and early 2020, I also urged my wife to visit a match of the Arabian Gulf League in soccer with me. The match I selected was the Abu Dhabi duel beween hosting Baniyas SC and city rival Al Jazira, played on Saturday, 28th December 2019. Here is my review of visiting the match in general (the story of the match plays a rather subordinate role in this posting.
Baniyas Stadium – Location & Traffic
Baniyas Stadium is located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Shamkha. You can reach it quite easily via the E11 and E20 motorways, it is just a short distance to drive to the stadium. Once you left the very central area of Abu Dhabi, there should not be any congestion. From central Abu Dhabi, it may be up to a 50 kilometer drive. From Abu Dhabi airport, the distance is just some 20 km.
There are major free parking facilities around the stadium. There may be parking problems in case a match has a really high attendance. The match I watched had some 1,500 spectators and did not lead to any infrastructural impact.
Baniyas Stadium – The Stadium & Tickets
The capacity of Baniyas Stadium is roughly 10,000. There main stand, which also features the VIP area and the team locker rooms, is thereby the most impressive part of the construction and even partially roofed. The pitch is fully surrounded by open stands with a video screen in one corner, which is just used for advertisements and time / score displays – no replays are shown on the screen.
The interior of the stadium is a real beauty. We had so-called First Class tickets, next to the VIP seats. The matchday price was 50 AED, roughly 12 Euro per ticket. If you book tickets in advance, the prices are significantly reduced. Our ticket category, for example, would have been 35 AED in pre-booking. VIP Tickets 75 instead of 100 AED. The lowest adult pre-sale tickets is the 10 AED family ticket. The only bad thing about our tickets that most of the seats had breaks/cracks.
Baniyas Stadium – Food & Services
There was a food stand right after the entrance to the First Class seats. However, we did not see that it opened (as we arrived comparably early). Next to it was a fan store, which unfortunately closed quite quickly after the match – as the home jerseys are just around 150 AED, I was very curious about buying a scarf after the match. The sanitary facilities were a bit on the basic side, but conveniently located and clean (as everywhere in the U.A.E.).
Baniyas SC – Atmosphere
Before the match, the pre-game show was very limited. There were just partial episodes of music. The walk-in of the teams with large banners waved on the lawn was very nice, though. Interesting to mention that though the percentage of male spectators was likely exceeding 95 per cent, the bilingual speaker was female. The lead language is definitely Arabic, though.
The match was much closer than I expected. Baniyas SC was definitely the underdog in this duel, but the team coached by German soccer manager legend Winfried Schäfer played a very good tactical system and even took the lead after a disastrous mistake in the Al Jazira defense. However, the guests tied the score before the break and converted a penalty shot in the second period to win the match.
Especially in a block opposite to the Main Stand, there was a huge support for the home team. After a couple of minutes, the Baniyas fans sang for a long time and cheered for their team. Thus, it has been a really nice and interesting atmosphere.
Baniyas SC & Baniyas Stadium – My View
Sarah and I felt that we had a nice evening and a really decent value for money. Baniyas SC feels to be a comparably small club, but played at a reasonable level. Cool to be close to Winfried Schäfer and to see him coaching again. If I make it to the region next time, I would love be back in one of their matches – maybe on a VIP ticket basis or with the Flyctory.com cameras.