Football is known to be the most popular sport in the world!
In fact, it's the one sport that connects people from across the globe and has additionally evolved into an area of serious competition between countries. Not only that, but today football has become a matter of national pride and joy for millions of people.
The 2002 World Cup - which was hosted by South Korea and Japan - specifically marked a new era for football stadiums. Indeed, stadiums were no longer considered mere playing fields; they've markedly taken centre-stage and become the key focus of media attention.
More and more countries started to mobilize their resources and capabilities to build large, modern and technologically-advanced stadiums. The sweeping popularity that football enjoys meant that countries needed football stadiums that well-represented them and promoted their forward-looking image.
This new movement that took the world by storm also extended throughout the GCC. Today we'll take you on a journey across the 10 largest football stadiums in the GCC region in terms of capacity.
1. King Fahd International Stadium (Pearl of Stadiums)
Dubbed the pearl of stadiums, the King Fahd International Stadium is the largest football stadium in the GCC area and not only in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; it can accommodate up to 68,752 viewers.
Inaugurated in 1987 in Riyadh, the multi-purpose King Fahd International Stadium sprawls over a staggering 500,000 square meters. Construction alone costed more than 510 million dollars.
This gigantic stadium has hosted numerous significant matches and tournaments, including the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations and World Cup U20 in 1989.
2. King Abdullah Sports City (The Shining Jewel)
An integral part of King Abdullah Sports City, King Abdullah stadium - also known as The Shining Jewel - is the second biggest in Saudi Arabia and 10th largest in the Arab world. , the stadium opened its doors in 2014; it can accommodate up to 62,000 spectators.
Located 60 kilometers north of Jeddah, the complex has hosted a myriad of grand matches for the Saudi national team. Moreover, it has witnessed many local matches between Jeddah’s Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad football clubs.
3. Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium
Jaber Al Ahmed International Stadium is particularly the newest among the largest football stadiums in the GCC area; it was built with the purpose of becoming Kuwait's one and only sporting landmark. Opening its doors for the first time in 2010, the facility was completely renovated and reopened in 2015. Valued at 59 million Kuwaiti dinars, the field's capacity is 60,000 viewers.
Jabar Al Ahmad International Stadium is also the official home field for the Kuwaiti national team; Kuwaitis celebrated their winning of Gulf Cup 20 in this stadium that lies in Al Farawniyah, south of Kuwait City.
4. Zayed Sports City Stadium
Known as the biggest stadium in UAE, the Zayed Sports City Stadium is one of the most iconic stadiums in the GCC region that hosted its first match in 1980. After that, it continued to host a growing list of famous games and international tournaments that include the 2007 GCC Cup of Nations final, in addition to several Fifa Club World Cup matches in both 2009 and 2010.
This grand complex spans more than one million square meters, and can accommodate up to 43,000 spectators. Moreover, this amazing football stadium was constructed at an estimated 550 million dirhams.
5. Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium
Acting as the home ground of UAE's Al-Jazira football club, the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi opened its doors in 1992. The multi-purpose field has a total capacity of 42,000 viewers.
Besides hosting Al-Jazira's matches, Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium has witnessed many other significant games for the UAE's national football teams. It is most notably known for hosting the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup, along with Zayed Sports City.
6. Khalifa International Stadium (National Stadium)
Until the completion of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, Khalifa International Stadium will remain the biggest in Qatar. The first matched played on this field was in 1972. Renovations and expansions took place here in 2005, to welcome the 2006 Asian Games.
Also known as National Stadium, the field's capacity is 40,000 viewers. However, it has recorded more than 50,000 spectators during a friendly match between Brazil and Argentina in 2010.
It is worth mentioning that Lucail Iconic Stadium, one of the World Cup 2022 Stadiums that are still under construction in Qatar, has a planned capacity of over 86,000 spectators which will make it the largest football stadium in the GCC area and one of the largest stadiums in the whole world upon its completion.
7. Qaboos Sports Complex
The Sultanate of Oman flaunts its iconic Qaboos Sports Complex which, above all, is a place of national Omani pride. The complex can accommodate up to 39,000 viewers at a time, and is the home field for Oman's national football team.
The Qaboos Sports Complex witnessed Oman's first GCC Cup of Nations title in 2009, during which Oman won the final match against Saudi Arabia by penalty shootouts.
8. Bahrain National Stadium
The Kingdom of Bahrain has made its way next on the list, with its celebrated Bahrain National Stadium. East Riffa, in the Southern Governorate, is home to this grand field that was inaugurated in 1982 with an official capacity of 35,000 viewers.
The first match hosted here was in 1983 between Bahrain and the UAE in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics preliminary round.
Along with Khalifa City Stadium, the Bahrain National Stadium hosted the 2013 GCC Cup of Nations tournament, for which the facility was re-renovated in early 2012 for the occasion.
9. King Abdul Aziz Stadium
The King Abdul Aziz Stadium is also known as Al Sharaee. It was built in 1986 as the official home field for Mecca’s top league team: Al Wahda.
As the third biggest in Saudi Arabia, it has a capacity of 33,000 viewers. The field has further hosted several of Jeddah’s Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad matches, with the current expansion and development works taking place at Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium.
10. Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium
Next on the list is Hazaa Bin Zayed Stadium, which is not just a sports arena. In fact, it's a state-of-the-art structure that seamlessly blends outstanding architecture with unrivaled technology. Moreover, this magnificent complex is particularly known to be the most advanced football pitch in the Middle East.
With a design inspired by palm trees, the stadium sprawls over 45,000 square meters in Al Tawia, Al Ain. Inaugurated in 2014, the complex can accommodate more than 22,000 spectators.
With a myriad of luxury facilities, the Hazaa Bin Zayed Stadium offers an exceptional experience for football viewers; it embraces 10 lavish cabins and a special VIP reception hall.
As the world moves towards the post-oil era, the GCC countries are increasingly focusing on developing their non-petroleum sectors generally and the tourism, entertainment and sports facilities specifically. Thus, it is expected that we will continue to hear more about new stadiums that join the largest football stadiums in the GCC region in the near future.