Thursday, May 10, 2007

Man United "sad and disappointed" by Malaysia

Manchester United chief executive David Gill is "sad and disappointed" that his team's visit to Malaysia has been cancelled. Gill wrote to Malaysia's Tourism Ministry after the Football Association of Malaysia bowed to pressure from the Asian Football Confederation which does not want any football event to clash with its flagship tournament, the Asian Cup, from 7-29. July. United were due to play in Kuala Lumpur against a Malaysian select team on 27 July, two days before the Asian Cup final in Jakarta. The AFC and FAM had signed an agreement last year in which the Malaysians were barred from promoting any other football event in July.

"We are extremely sad and disappointed to hear that we are not welcomed," Gill's letter was quoted as saying in the New Straits Times. "Malaysia is our second home. We played there in 1995, 1999 and 2001 - more than anywhere else in Asia. We are proud to come and celebrate [Malaysia's] 50 years of independence and it's a once in a life-time celebration. We were very much looking forward to celebrating with our fans."

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based promoter of the United tour, which also includes matches in Japan, South Korea and Macau, is confident the Malaysian part of the program will continue. "All four legs will go ahead as planned," Paul Kam, chairman of ProEvents Management Ltd was quoted as saying by South China Morning Post. "There is a lot of speculation going on, but everything will be resolved soon." The paper said that Macau organisers would cancel ticket sales on 2 June should promoters fail to provide proper assurances that United will play there.

And Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, Deputy President of the Football Association of Malaysia, said officials would appeal to the AFC on behalf of the government to salvage the planned match. "Give us a few days more to sort out matters," he was quoted as saying by The Star. "We don't want to rush and jeopardize our efforts to save the situation."

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