Wamalay na Waisrael....


JF-Expert Member
Aug 29, 2006
Malaysia may lift travel ban for Chelsea's Israeli pair

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia on Monday hinted it may lift a travel ban on Israelis to allow Chelsea coach Avram Grant and midfielder Tal Ben Haim to come here on a mini-Asian tour by the English Premier League title contenders.

"I am not sure what the decision would be yet. But it would be a pity that politics should get in the way of sports," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

"There is a travel ban. I will have to study the situation first but I would like to see Chelsea although it is not my (favourite) team, I would like to see them playing here."

Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and its citizens must obtain special permission to travel here.

Chelsea last week said they could be forced to cancel the Malaysian leg of their tour if the Israelis were not allowed into the country.

The Football Association of Malaysia had said tour organisers would raise the issue with the foreign ministry in order to obtain clearance for the pair.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, who announced matches in Malaysia on July 29 and in China tentatively on July 23 in the southern city of Guangzhou, was confident approval would be secured.

But he indicated the London glamour side could be forced to ditch the Malaysian visit if Grant and Ben Haim were banned from entering the country.

"We clearly could not travel without our top coach. This (tour) is a critical part of training for the 2008-2009 season," he told AFP.

"It will make no sense to travel without a key member of the coaching staff."

Najib backed the rare tour by the Premier League giants, saying it would boost Malaysian football.

"It's good for local football, definitely," he said.

Chelsea, who have strong support in Malaysia, are scheduled to play the much-derided national team who have slipped down the rankings to 164 after their heyday in the 1970s.

The incident echoes last year's botched visit by Manchester United, who were forced to call off their trip after the Asian Football Confederation complained it clashed with Malaysia's co-hosting of the Asian Cup.

In 1997, Malaysia allowed Israel to compete in the 22-nation ICC Trophy cricket tournament here but the decision sparked a series of demonstrations in the capital.

Malaysia's population is dominated by Muslim Malays, but the nation is also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
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