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Malaysia may lift Israeli ban
Malaysia hints at lifting a travel ban so that Chelsea's Israeli manager can travel.
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2008 07:44 GMT

Avram Grant, Chelsea's Israeli manager, will require special permission to enter Malaysia [GALLO/GETTY]

Malaysia has hinted it may lift a travel ban on Israelis to allow Avram Grant, Chelsea manager, and Tal Ben Haim, Blues midfielder, to come to the country on a mini-Asian tour by the English Premier League title contenders.
Chelsea have scheduled matches in Malaysia and China as part of their off-season tour in July, however the South East Asian nation does not have diplomatic ties with Israel which may cause visa issues for Grant and Ben Haim.
Israeli citizens must obtain special permission to travel to Malaysia.

"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," Najib Razak, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, said.

" ...it would be a pity that politics should get in the way of sports."

Najib Razak,
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister
"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."

Last week Chelsea said they could be forced to cancel the Malaysian leg of their tour if their Israeli duo were not allowed into the country.

The Football Association of Malaysia told tour organisers it would raise the issue with the foreign ministry in order to obtain clearance for the pair.

Local boost

Peter Kenyon, Chelsea chief executive, who announced matches in Malaysia on July 29 and in the southern China city of Guangzhou tentatively on July 23, was confident approval would be secured.

However he indicated the London club could be forced to cancel the Malaysian visit if Grant and Ben Haim were banned from entering the country.

"We clearly could not travel without our top coach. This [tour] is a critical part of training for the 2008-2009 season," Kenyon told AFP.

"It will make no sense to travel without a key member of the coaching staff."

Najib supported the rare tour by the Premier League giants, saying it would boost Malaysian football.

"It's good for local football, definitely," the Deputy PM said.

In 1997, Malaysia allowed Israel to compete in the 22-nation ICC Trophy cricket tournament in Kuala Lumpur but the decision sparked a series of demonstrations in the capital.

Malaysia's population is dominated by Muslim Malays, but the nation is also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

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