Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that he would “like to see Chelsea play in Malaysia”, and that he may have the rules temporarily bent to allow Chelsea’s Israeli contingent – manager Avram Grant and defender Tal Ben Haim – to travel to Malaysia as part of Chelsea’s 2008 pre-season tour of the Far East.
“I am not sure what the decision would be yet. But it would be a pity that politics should get in the way of sports. There is a travel ban. I will have to study the situation first but I would like to see Chelsea although it is not my (favourite) team, I would like to see them playing here.”
Chelsea had already stated that they would cancel the Malaysian leg of their Far East tour if their Israelis were denied entrance.
The most interesting part of this whole thing is what Najib Razak says about Chelsea playing in Malaysia:
“It’s good for local football, definitely.”
This is in direct contrast to the Asian Football Confederation’s stance, who have been aggressively territorial about “protecting” local football – last year Manchester United’s game was called off because Malaysia were co-hosting the Asian Cup around the same time and even though United’s match did not coincide with any Cup games the AFC complained that the promotion for the event would take away attention from the Cup.