Malaysia risks AFC sanctions to back Man United

The promotional game to be played in Kuala Lumpur by English Premier League club Manchester United is "a government and private sector initiative in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007," Football Association of Malaysia Deputy President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah told Bernama newsagency. According to his statement, Manchester United will take on a yet to be determined Malaysian invitational team, selected by the government and made up of club and international Malaysian players.

The game is scheduled for 27 July - just two days after Kuala Lumpur completes its hosting of an Asian Cup group round and semi-final and two days before neighbouring Jakarta hosts the final of the Asian Football Confederation's prestigious tournament. However Tengku Abdullah reportedly denied the match would undermine attendance at Asian Cup games.

The AFC has reminded FAM that its contract to host the Asian Cup group clearly stated it could not sanction or promote any other footballing event during the tournament. On 14 November last year, the AFC directly warned Malaysia not to allow the proposed Manchester United tour affect publicity for the Asian Cup and AFC officials also met with officials of Malaysia's Sports and Tourism ministries to receive assurance that the Asian Cup will take priority. A few days ago FAM General Secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad publicly reconfirmed the contract and reassured that FAM "will abide by that contract."

However Tengku Abdullah now says FAM has to support the Malaysian Government’s drive to bring in more tourists. "We support the Manchester United tour but other than providing logistical support, we will not be promoting the event in any way," he told Christopher Raj of the New Straits Times. "There won’t be a clash and furthermore, the Manchester United tour is part of Visit Malaysia Year and Malaysia’s 50th year of independence. Besides the Asian Cup, four other footballing events, including the Merdeka Tournament and Champions Youth Cup, are part of the celebrations. I am sure that Malaysians will support all of them.

"The agreement to bring United to Malaysia was initiated by the Tourism Ministry. We have been asked to provide logistical support and we will. United were scheduled to play here on July 25 but the organisers took the initiative to change the date. I hope the AFC understands that we are committed to the Asian Cup but we have to also support the Government’s initiative," he argued, adding that he wasn't worried about possible [AFC] sanctions.

See also: AFC "very unhappy" if Malaysia backs Man U tour (20 Apr)