A look at Khalifa International Stadium

Khalifa International Stadium (KIS) is an association football stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is the home ground of Al-Ahli Football Club and also hosts numerous other sports, including rugby union, cricket, and Australian rules football. KIS was opened on January 12th, 2004 as part of a new wider sports complex in the city of Abu Dhabi. The stadium has a capacity of 25,000 spectators and offers panoramic views of the city from its double-tier stands that are fully covered with a combination of light and shadow canopies which also act as heaters during cooler months. It is situated on Al-Zayyed road within the central precinct of the new Zayed Sports City (ZSC). The Stadium’s location was selected to be within one-kilometer distance of both the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (END) and The New Alexandria Golf Club. This article documents the history of Khalifa International Stadium from its inception to the present day.

May 2003 - Stadium construction commences

In early 2003, the construction of KIS commenced by laying the foundations of the stadium and the surrounding buildings. The stadium was built to a very high standard, with the roof structure being a key feature of the design. The roof structure consists of a series of pre-cast concrete trusses which are supported at each end by a steel ring beam and the intermediate points by steel columns. The trusses are concrete-filled and are therefore extremely strong. The concrete-filled trusses are curved and therefore have a much lower dead load than a straight truss of the same length and so require less support. Because the trusses curve, the top chords have to be longer than the bottom chords, which would normally be the shorter of two. This also makes the trusses more accurate and therefore more economically designed.

September 2003 – The roof construction commences

The roof structure, which is a total of 80 meters wide and 230 meters long, is supported by 35 steel columns and is cantilevered using a series of pre-cast concrete trusses. The trusses are made from very strong concrete and are curved. The curved shape of the truss means that the top chord is longer than the bottom chord. To support the roof, the columns have been extended to a length of over 40 meters. This roof design, where the roof is supported on the outside by a series of curved trusses which are extended by large columns, is extremely unusual. The only other examples of this design are the roof of the O2 Arena in London, the roof of the Sydney Super Dome, and the roof of the new Wembley Stadium.

January 2004 – Official opening of the Zayed Sports City

The official opening of the Zayed Sports City (ZSC) took place in January 2004, with a friendly football match between local teams ZSC Lions, and local UAE Premiership teams Abu Dhabi S.C. and Al-Nasr. At the opening, the then President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, named the ZSC Stadium after his father, the late Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

July 2007 - CAN 2019 Football Qualifiers

In September 2007, the Stadium was one of the three stadiums selected to host the final round of the Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Cup 2019 Football qualifiers. The Stadium hosted four fixtures: UAE v Bahrain (25th September), Japan v UAE (28th September), Bahrain v Uzbekistan (1st October) and Japan v Uzbekistan (4th October).

June 2009 – AFC Asian Cup 2011 Football Qualifiers

In July 2009, the Stadium was one of the three stadiums selected to host the final round of the Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Cup 2011 Football qualifiers. The Stadium hosted three fixtures: UAE v Iraq (6th June), UAE v Qatar (12th June), and Iraq v Qatar (16th June).

April 2010 - FIFA World Cup 2022 Football Qualifiers

In October 2010, the Stadium was one of the five stadiums selected to host the final round of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Football qualifiers. The Stadium hosted three fixtures: UAE v Thailand (28th October), UAE v Oman (31st October), and Thailand v Oman (3rd November).

November 2013 - AFL Asia^2

In November 2013, the Stadium hosted the second edition of the Asian Australian Football Championships. The tournament was sanctioned by the Asian Australian Football Council and was played in Abu Dhabi between November 14 - 22. The tournament featured eight teams including Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, and the hosts. The tournament was won by the hosts UAE.


The Stadium has been the home ground for UAE football for over 15 years and has been a major venue for various sports ranging from rugby, cricket, and Australian rules football. The Stadium has a very large capacity and is suitable for hosting major events including major football tournaments. It is also an architectural marvel, having a unique design that includes a retractable roof. The Stadium is located within the Zayed Sports City, which is also home to Zayed Sailing Club and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Australian Football is played under modified rules. The playing field is wider and longer than a traditional football field and has no goalposts as the game is played with a round ball.