Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Munich and Barcelona slam Man United Asian tour

German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich insists it will not schedule games in Asia that would clash with the dates of the Asian Football Confederation's prestigious Asian Cup 2007 being played 7-29 July. Martin Haegele, Bayern's head of international affairs, told media in Beijing, China, that the club had already rejected a match against Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds because the game would clash with the Asian Cup, the region's equivalent of the European Championship.

However, English Premier League club Manchester United, which last visited Asia in 2005, is scheduled to open its commercial Far East tour on 17 July against Urawa in Saitama before taking on FC Seoul three days later at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. The third game against China's Shenzhen FC is scheduled for 23 July at Macau Stadium and the tour is scheduled to conclude in Kuala Lumpur with a match against a Malaysian XI just two days before the Asian Cup final.

"It doesn't show respect to Asia," Haegele said of Manchester United's tour. "We want to be different from clubs that just come to milk the cow." He commented that Manchester United was adding fuel to FIFA President Sepp Blatter's argument that rich European teams acted only in self-interest. Bayern wants to build long-term relationships in Asia and not just "sell a few jerseys," he added. "Normally I'm not a friend of Sepp Blatter but in this case United gave him the best argument," he said.

Spanish La Liga champion Barcelona, which has a game scheduled in Beijing on 5 August, said Manchester United was only thinking of its Asian supporters when it arranged its tour. "But we have to respect the local leagues," Casper Stylsvig, Barcelona's regional manager, told Grant Clark of Bloomberg. "We will learn from Manchester United's experience and avoid doing the same."

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