Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Manchester United stumble against AFC's ego

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) have caved in to pressure from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the governing body of football in Asia.

FAM has ruled out Manchester United who enjoy huge support in Malaysia from playing in the country in July, during which time the Asian Cup will be played.

This decision comes as FIFA president Sepp Blatter called for the newly-crowned Premier League champions show some respect for Asian soccer .

The fear is that a tour by a big club as big as United will divert attention from the Asian Cup. In other words the fans will go to watch only Man United and not the Asian Cup matches.

Manchester United plan to kick off their tour against J-League champions Urawa Red Diamonds on July 17 in Saitama in Japan before travelling to the South Korean capital for a showdown with FC Seoul on July 20.

Alex Ferguson's team are then due to head to Macau for a match against Shenzhen on July 23.

They are due to end the tour agaionst a Malaysian XI in Kuala Lumpur on July 27, few days before the Asian Cup final will take place in Indonesia.

FA Malaysia had arranged the the United game, as part of the “Visit Malaysia 2007” campaign.

The high-handed approach taken by AFC towards the visit of one of the biggest clubs and the opportunity to play with the world's top players cannot be good for the game in Asia.

According to reports, when asked what message he had for United fans disappointed by any cancellation or rescheduling, AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam said: “I would say Asia for Asians.”

That sounds like a xenophobic statement.

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