Lack of facilities is one of the factors which hamper the growth of sports across the globe. But the script is different here for sportsmen living around the 48,000-seater Khalifa International Stadium.
While back at home clubs have to part with tidy amounts to hire the few available stadiums, the management of the Khalifa Stadium has opened the gates for free. Despite the hefty maintenance costs incurred in keeping the natural surface in good condition, Aspire Zone, a governmental agency tasked in manning the stadium, opens the doors for local teams and athletes to train free of charge. International teams who seek to use the facility have to dig deep into their pockets for booking fees.
The 2017 African champions Cameroon held their residential camp here in preparations for the 32nd edition of the tournament held in Egypt between June and July 2019. The air-conditioned facility has played host to a myriad of events and is one of the venues earmarked to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup albeit only 40,000 fans will be allowed in.
“Local teams and athletes do not pay to use this facility. We elected to promote local sports by gifting our sportsmen the opportunity to train here. Even for visiting teams, the charges are pocket-friendly. We are not a profit-making entity. Cameroon trained here last summer and we have hosted big clubs from Europe as well,” said Alli Mansoori, who is the stadium’s operations manager.
The stadium was opened in 1976 and throughout the years, a paltry three renovations have been undertaken thus— 1990 for the Youth World Cup, 2005 for the Asian Games and in 2017.
The management has several departments among them Information technology and marketing department. The Fifa Club World Cup is also pencilled to be held here in December. Spectators are subjected to mandatory security check and all corners are surveilled.
“This is a historical stadium which has hosted big events and we are proud of it. We have done three renovations since its opening and we have different departments and staff. We outsource for the maintenance of the playing surface which entails watering the grass and ensuring it’s well under the right temperatures at night. Our cooling systems can be adjusted depending on different disciplines. We can make the environment inside warm or extremely cold,” continued Mansoori, who has worked at the facility since 1980.
Mansoori has called on sports administrators to put the interests of the game ahead of commercial gains. “Sports can only grow if we have interests from our hearts. We have been doing it here out of passion and I believe that’s why we are successful. If we go the commercial way athletes will have their talents go to waste,” he finished.