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Rediff.com  » Sports » Malaysia set to cancel Man United tour match

Malaysia set to cancel Man United tour match

May 08, 2007 13:09 IST
Manchester United will be asked to cancel their July tour match in Malaysia after organisers bowed to mounting pressure from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the country's top soccer official said.

"We have to abide by the ruling of the Asian football family. Manchester United can't come in July," Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah told reporters on Tuesday.

Abdullah was speaking just after FIFA president Sepp Blatter and AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam pleaded during the body's Congress for countries to withdraw support for Manchester United's tour of Asia during the July 7-29 Asian Cup.

United were due to play in Kuala Lumpur on July 27, two days before the Asian Cup final in Jakarta. The AFC and Football Association of Malaysia last year signed an agreement banning the promotion of any other soccer event during the Asian Cup.

The English Premier League champions are also due to visit Japan, South Korea and Macau.

Alex Ferguson's side enjoy huge support in Malaysia and the region and the club sees Asia as a major market for its merchandise.

"I think this is a question of solidarity and one of respect," Blatter said. "Shall football only be about business?"

TAKEN ABACK

Malaysian soccer officials were clearly taken aback by the show of support from the AFC's 45 other members, who all clapped loudly after Blatter and Hammam made their requests.

FAM general secretary Ibrahim Saad criticised the AFC for interfering in Malaysia's 50th anniversary celebrations.

"I don't think it's right for other people to tell our country how we should celebrate our 50th anniversary," Saad said.

The United tour was also part of the "Visit Malaysia 2007" campaign and Abdullah said he would leave it to the organisers to inform the English club of their change of plans.

"We saw the reaction of the Asian football family and we have no choice," Abdullah said.

"Malaysian fans will be disappointed. I sympathise but we know the wishes of the president and we have to support that."

Earlier, Blatter echoed Hammam's frustration at the timing of the United tour, which would steal the spotlight from the Jakarta final.

"We will be taking this case up at the FIFA Congress (at the end of this month in Zurich) and we will also contact the English FA," Blatter told delegates on Tuesday.

"It's not correct for European teams to play in Asia during the continent's biggest competition."

Hammam had previously described the proposed tour as "immoral and unethical", accusing United of being disrespectful towards Asia.

He publicly called on Abdullah, an AFC executive council member, to cancel the tour on Tuesday.

"I would say Asia for Asians," Bin Hammam told reporters when asked what message he had for United fans disappointed by any cancellation or rescheduling.

(Additional reporting by Ossian Shine)

Nazvi Careem
Source:
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