Malaysia warned: focus on Asian Cup not Man U

The Asian Football Confederation has warned Malaysia not to allow a proposed Manchester United tour affect publicity for its flagship 2007 Asian Cup. Assistant general secretary Clare Kenny said AFC officials had met with Malaysian tourism and sports ministries and received assurances that a tour by the English Premier League club would not dilute the Asian equivalent of the European Championship.

"We would be very unhappy if something like the tour of Manchester United encroached on the success of the 2007 Asian Cup," Kenny told Reuters newsagency. "Malaysia has known about the tournament for the past two years and they agreed to do their best to promote the event. We have spoken to the ministries of sport and tourism and they indicated to us that the Asian Cup will have their priority and we are encouraged by this."

AFC general secretary Peter Velappan had said United's reported visit along with other events threaten to push the Asian Cup into the sidelines. "I know the Malaysian football season starts early next year and am hoping that the Football Association of Malaysia will do its part to promote the AFC Asian Cup 2007 in a big way," Velappan told the AFC's official website. "To avoid a clash of interests, I would like the FAM to notify us about their 2007 activities. United's Far East Tour and the G-14 Youth Championship are some conflicting activities scheduled for next year and we need to look into this."

Responding to suggestions that Malaysia may lose its hosting status, Kenny told Reuters: "It is only rumour and speculation that suggests Malaysia will lose the tournament. Malaysia will continue as one of the four hosts of the 2007 Asian Cup." Malaysia will co-host the event alongside Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Velappan also praised Malaysia's efforts to have facilities in place before the 7-29 July tournament starts after visiting the Bukit Jalil Stadium, which will host six group matches, one quarter-final and one semi-final. "I am very happy with what I see but at the same time the pitch condition needs to be improved for the tournament proper," said Velappan. "However, I am confident that everything will be in place and Malaysia will have two stadiums (along with the Shah Alam Stadium) of international standard to host Asia's premier footballing event."