New Zealand's football team train at Abu Dhabi Cricket facilities
New Zealand's football team train at Abu Dhabi Cricket facilities Image Credit: Supplied

New Zealand play the second of two international friendlies in Abu Dhabi when they meet Gambia on Tuesday in what may be the start of a long-term relationship between the All Whites and the UAE capital.

Due to New Zealand’s Mandatory International Quarantine (MIQ) status, their national football team needed to find a temporary base to unite its players during this international break.

Abu Dhabi was a natural fit as a global travel hub, and it may lead to a more permanent second residence for New Zealand’s footballers.

“Our preparations have been unbelievable in Abu Dhabi, I think we’ve found a new home away from home as we look to prepare for qualifying for Qatar 2022,” said New Zealand coach Danny Hay. “The reality is that our players are based all around the world and, moving forward, this is the ideal place to be as the Abu Dhabi Cricket facilities are second-to-none and it’s just one flight for everybody.”

It’s not only the ease and convenience of bringing his players together that attracts Hay to Abu Dhabi, but even more so it is the facilities.

While their cricket counterparts were featuring at Zayed Cricket Stadium en route to a runners-up finish in the T20 World Cup, Hay’s side were training at the same Abu Dhabi Cricket facility on the multi-sport site’s world-class football pitches.

Hay has been highly impressed. “I was aware that the Blackcaps had played in the main stadium previously and when we got here we had the opportunity to go along to some T20 fixtures, even the warm-up game between New Zealand and Australia, while we got a close-up look of the football pitches,” he explained. “Straight away we could tell we were in a really good environment where people put a lot of care and love into the surfaces. And at our level, it all comes down to the quality of the surface — and the commitment of the people on the ground — that allows us to prepare for an international football game. The training facilities are what it’s all about and the ability to play in good stadiums, on good surfaces. That’s why we’ve said this is a long-term venture for us.”