Image Nation, the Abu Dhabi-based production company with Hollywood ties, is financing an Arab sports comedy by Emirati helmer Mohammed Saeed Harib, its third local feature.

Harib, who studied filmmaking in the U.S., created the Middle East’s first 3D animated TV series, “Freej,” about four funny old ladies living on Dubai’s outskirts, which is a hit on Cartoon Network’s Arabic channel.

Harib will segue from that skein into his as-yet-untitled first feature, a family friendly comedy set in the United Arab Emirates about a disgraced former soccer player seeking redemption and a second chance by coaching a rag-tag team of high-school students.

Shooting is scheduled to start next year with plans for a fall release.

Image Nation’s previous films are Nawaf Al-Janahi’s coming-of-ager “Sea Shadow,” released in 2011, and Arab supernatural thriller “Djinn,” by U.S. director Tobe Hooper, shot in the UAE and set for release in 2013. Both are sold internationally by Fortissimo Films.

Image Nation launched in 2008 as a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media to lay the foundations of an UAE film industry. At the time it formed a $250 million, five-year joint venture fund with L.A.-based Participant Media, with which it remains linked.

Its other partnerships comprise National Geographic Films, Hyde Park Entertainment, Parkes/Macdonald Prods., Warner Bros. and Singapore’s Media Development Authority.

Pics co-produced by Image Nation include “The Help,” “Fair Game,” “Contagion,” “The Double” and Bollywood hit “My Name Is Khan,”