Friday, May 25, 2007

Malaysian officials still complaining about Man Utd

Manchester United two days ago told media it had recognised that it could not play a promotional game in Malaysia on 27 July without the official approval of the Asian Football Confederation. The club's statement said it hoped issues "can be resolved by the relevant parties to ensure that this celebration match can take place as planned" and said "a further announcement will be made in due course."

International media took into account the AFC's well-stated opposition to the game being held during the build-up to its prestigious Asian Cup final on 29 July and announced, therefore, that the English Premier League champion had abandoned its scheduled visit to Kuala Lumpur.

While Manchester United is yet to make a subsequent announcement, Malaysian football, government and political officials have continued to voice complaints about the AFC's refusal to approve or compromise on an intended breach of contract by the Football Association of Malaysia and the Government of Malaysia.

"We appeal to the AFC to look into the move by the government to bring Manchester United," FAM Vice President Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar told AFP. "The Prime Minister of Malaysia himself personally wanted to see that match and I do hope they can give consideration to that," he said.

"I understand the stance of the AFC, but I hope they can be flexible for the sake of football and allow them to play on July 27," said Laurence How, President of the Malaysian Manchester United Supporters Club. "I would like to emphasise that it is not Manchester United which is inflexible. They have a schedule to follow," he confusingly argued.

"We are sad if they are not coming," Malaysian Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor said. "We have already spoken to the AFC a couple of times, but the trouble with the AFC is that they are not compromising. The final is not even played in Malaysia so I am confused and upset ... We've got to find out why [Manchester United] are not coming. I have not spoken to them. As far as the government is concerned, we want them to come," he told state-owned Bernama newsagency.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, a fiery political leader, also urged the AFC to reconsider its stance. "I call on AFC president Mohamed Hammam to do the honourable thing by acceding to Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said's request to allow Manchester United to play on the said date. No one is questioning AFC's legal right to prevent the MU match from taking place or the binding contract between the FA of Malaysia and AFC. The issue now is whether or not Hammam will accommodate the wishes of the government and the hopes of Malaysian football fans," said Khairy in a statement issued to Bernama.

"If Hammam is unwilling to agree to this request, it will be a tremendous insult to the Government of Malaysia which houses the AFC headquarters and has been a strong supporter of AFC and Asian football in general," Khairy an ardent Manchester United fan, unsubtly warned.

See also: Malaysian Govt: "AFC's views are not important" (23 May) and Shock: Man Utd shown "new info" backing AFC (23 May) and AFC President meets EPL and Man Utd leaders (23 May)

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