Chelsea's Israelis face opposition
Malaysian Muslim groups set to protest if Avram Grant and Tal Ben Haim tour in July.
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2008 06:37 GMT

Chelsea manager Avram Grant has been cleared for entry into Malaysia, but may face protests [AFP] 

Muslim groups in Malaysia have urged the government to stop Avram Grant and Tal Ben Haim, Chelsea Football Club's two Israelis, from entering the country when the English team visits in July, warning the tour could face protests if they are allowed in.
Grant, Chelsea coach, and Ben Haim, defender, are Israeli citizens who will be part of the London club's pre-season tour to Asia to play in mainly Muslim Malaysia.
Malaysia has no ties with Israel and normally forbids Israelis from entering the country, but the home minister decided at the weekend to allow the pair to enter the country, on the grounds they were taking part in a sporting event free of politics.

A group of 21 Muslim and non-government groups now want the government to reverse its decision and has sent a petition to the minister.

"People are very, very angry with the decision... "

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid,
group spokesman
"If the Israeli footballers are allowed entry, the government would be seen as being insensitive to the feelings of the Palestinian victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing and atrocities, and the majority of the Malaysians who sympathise with them and support their struggle for justice and peace," the petition says.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, a spokesman for the group, said on Monday that the signatories would consider staging protests during Chelsea's tour if the government refused to back down.

"People are very, very angry with the decision, so we are going to have discussions on this," Abdul Hamid said.

The last time Israeli athletes were allowed in Malaysia was for the 1997 ICC Trophy cricket tournament, which resulted in street protests in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Chelsea are scheduled to play Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Pharmaceutical on July 23 and a Malaysia select team in Kuala Lumpur on July 29.

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