(AFP) – Apr 27, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia is standing by its decision to allow the Israeli coach and player from English Premier League side Chelsea into the country, a report said Monday, despite planned protests by Muslims.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, whose ministry oversees visas for foreigners, said coach Avram Grant and defender Tal Ben Haim will be allowed into Malaysia in July despite warnings of demonstrations by Muslim groups.
Chelsea will play a Malaysian representative team on July 29 as part of a summer tour of Asia.
"We do not look at the aspect of politics," Syed Hamid, who is a Chelsea supporter, was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.
"It should not be a problem (for them to come). Chelsea is a good team and everyone wants to see them play," he added.
Syed Hamid made the remarks after Muslim leaders urged him to impose an entry ban on the pair, while also campaigning for football fans to boycott the game in Malaysia.
Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and its citizens must obtain special permission to travel here.
Malaysia's population is dominated by Muslim Malays, but the nation is also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
The English title contenders are among the most popular teams in Malaysia, where sports fans avidly follow the Premier League on satellite television.
Chelsea are also planning to play in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on July 23 on their pre-season tour.
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