Fans welcomed back for President's Cup final at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

Showpiece contest between Shabab Al Ahli and Al Nasr will be first match to host spectators for more than a year

Al Ain, United Arab Emirates- January, 20, 2014:  General view of the new Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium which accommodates 25,000 spectators in Al Ain  . ( Satish Kumar / The National ) For Sports
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UAE football will welcome back fans in attendance for the first time in more than a year at next month’s President’s Cup final.

The Football Association announced late on Tuesday that spectators will be allowed to watch live the country’s showpiece football fixture on May 16, with up to 30 per cent capacity permitted at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Shabab Al Ahli and Al Nasr contest the final.

The match will be open only to fans who have been vaccinated, with the added stipulation that they must present a negative Covid-19 test result taken within the previous 48 hours.

The FA, who confirmed the decision after coordinating with the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, stressed that fans attending must fully adhere to all precautionary measures, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

To attend the final, spectators must show messages on the Al Hosn app displaying "Received the covid-19 vaccine” and the letter "E". The match is open also to those who have obtained a star from clinical trials.

The move is viewed as a major step towards bringing back spectators to UAE football matches for the 2021/22 season. The 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League was cancelled last summer having been suspended in March because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The league was 19 rounds into its season. Fans had last attended matches in Round 17, on February 28.

A decision, via a vote of its 14 member clubs, was taken not to award the league title to then-leaders Shabab Al Ahli, while Hatta and Fujairah were spared relegation, essentially rendering the campaign null and void. However, some individual player statistics from the season were eventually restored.

Meanwhile, the UAE national team play their four remaining Group G World Cup qualifiers in Dubai in June. The National understands the FA is assessing whether to permit fans to attend those fixtures.