Tuesday 11 April 2023, 14:00

FIFA Forward-funded Air Dome brings Mongolian players in from the cold

  • Construction of long-anticipated project recently completed

  • FIFA-funded facility provides cover for the National Team Training Centre (NTTC)

  • "The Air Dome will serve as the launch-pad for our future success."

When Mongolia's U-17 women’s national team entertained Hong Kong at home in a friendly international last Thursday, the hosts knew the game would go down in the nation’s football history. It was the first-ever international match in their newly-constructed Air Dome. With the wind whistling and land covered in snow, the cold weather of early April is not usually a time conducive for football in Mongolia. However, with the recent completion of the FIFA-funded Air Dome and its huge structure providing cover, the players could play on the football turf at the National Team Training Center (NTTC). "This game [against Hong Kong] was the first international match in the Air Dome," an excited Mr.Terbaatar Dambiijav, General Secretary of Mongolian Football Federation (MFF), told FIFA.com. "The match was very important for our team to prepare for the forthcoming AFC U-17 Women's Asian Cup Group B qualifier. "The Air Dome is a successful FIFA Forward project. We would like to express our heart-felt gratitude to FIFA on behalf of the MFF for its consistent support for us. This ensures that football is now available for us across all four seasons."

Echoing those thoughts was captain Binderya Davaasuren, who was in an upbeat mood after featuring in the milestone match. "It was incredible playing our first international friendly in this Air Dome," she told FIFA.com. "Outside, the grass is completely blanketed by snow, but inside, we could focus on our play. I hope that the Air Dome will serve as a launch-pad for our future success." Even visiting skipper KO Pak Ling Lucia was amazed by the experience of competing in such a cavernous, air-inflated dome in snowy weather conditions. "I saw snow for the first time here because it doesn't snow in Hong Kong," she said. "It felt awesome, and really unique to play here." With strong support by FIFA, MFF has made significant football development progress over recent years. In infrastructure terms, a new pitch with floodlights at the National Team Training Centre was funded by FIFA Forward in 2018. This was followed by another artificial pitch coupled with a grandstand and multipurpose facilities in New Yarmag from 2018-2021. Last year saw the MFF Football Centre at the MFF Headquarters undergo an eco-friendly pitch renovation. At competition level, Mongolia made history when the men's senior national team defeated Brunei over two legs during 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ qualifying to progress to the next stage for the first time. In the process, they also hosted the world's first qualifying match during the Qatar 2022 campaign at the MFF Football Centre.

A bird's eye view of newly constructed air-dome at the MFF National Teams Training Centre of Mongolia

The country's rigid winter, however, poses persistent challenges as the MFF aim to lift their game to the next level. With the freezing temperatures ranging from minus 15 to 30 from November to March, all football activities cease for five months of the year. To implement its long-term vision of sustained development, MFF submitted to FIFA their plan of building an Air Dome over the existing artificial turf at the National Team Training Centre. The joint efforts by FIFA and MFF paid off with construction of the Air Dome - 114m x 82m x 29m in size - completed this year. With a 1mm thick outdoor membrane and 0.5mm inside membrane, it is corrosion-proof and can withstand temperatures from -45C to 70C. Looking ahead, Dambiijav is optimistic for the future. "The Mongolian Football Federation will work diligently to continue our collaboration with FIFA, to implement further FIFA Forward projects, to further develop and maximize the impact of our beloved beautiful game.”