The King Abdullah Sports City is a multi-purpose stadium and is named after Abdullah, who was the king of Saudi Arabia when the stadium was opened. The main stadium, known as King Abdullah International Stadium is a football stadium having a capacity of up to 60,241 seats and serves as the home ground for two Saudi Premier League clubs, Al Ittihad FC and Al-Ahli SC.
The decision to erect a new sports stadium was announced in the King’s decree in 2009. The original plan included a main stadium for 100,000 people and several other buildings spread over 900 hectares.
However, in 2011, the plan was reduced to a capacity of 60,000 seats and an area of 300 hectares. Despite the huge size of the stadium, it was constructed within 14 months and was ready for use in early 2014.
The city was officially opened on May 1, 2014, hosting the final of the 2014 King’s Cup between Al-Ahli SC and Al-Shabab. Al-Shabab stunned the home crowd to win the final 3-0. The match was attended by then king, King Abdullah along with Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin.
On 10th October 2014, the stadium hosted an international friendly between Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. It was an important occasion for Saudi football since Uruguay is a football powerhouse and had the likes of Luis Suarez, Jose Gimenez and Nicolas Lodeiro in its line up and Diego Godin in the bench. The match finished 1-1 with Saudi Arabia grabbing the equaliser in the 89th minute.
The first local derby between Al Ahli and Al Ittihad to be hosted by the stadium was held on 19th December, 2014 in the Saudi League. The match finished 1-1, and was witnessed by over 59,000 fans.
The stadium hosted the final of the King’s Cup again in 2015. The final was contested between Al-Nassr FC and Al Hilal. The match turned out to be a very tight encounter and finished 0-0 after 90 minutes. Al Nassr drew first blood as Mohammad Al Sahlawi scored in the 92nd minute. They looked set to lift the trophy but Mohammed Jahfali equalized in the dying embers of the game. Al Hilal won the game on penalties.
The King Abdullah Sports City was the target of an ISIS terror plot in 2016. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry revealed that it had stopped an attack by the terror group who had planned to detonate a car bomb during a World Cup qualifier match. Around 60,000 people were in the stadium during the hour.
On 5th September 2017, Saudi Arabia faced Japan at the King Abdullah Sports City. The Saudis won the game 1-0 and secured qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Substitute Fahad Al Muwallad scored the goal which relegated Australia to a playoff spot.