Israeli coach, midfielder may be allowed

MYT 1:52:45 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will study whether to grant permission for Chelsea's Israeli football coach and midfielder to enter Malaysia in view of the country's travel ban on Israelis, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said there was a travel ban imposed on Israelis, but the Government would have to take into account that politics should not get in the way of sports.

"It's not my team but it's definitely good for local football. I'm not sure what the decision should be yet but it would be a pity if politics got in the way of sports," he told reporters Monday after the launch of Dayang Enteprise Holdings Bhd prospectus for its upcoming listing on Bursa Malaysia here.

Najib was asked to comment on whether the Government would allow Chelsea Israeli coach Avram Grant and midfielder Tal Ben Haim into the country in view of the Premier League giant visiting Malaysia.

Chelsea is scheduled to play against the national team in July as part of its mini Asian tour.

"We'll have to study the situation first, but I would like to see Chelsea playing here. Although it's not my team."

Asked which football team he supported, Najib said: "I'm a staunch supporter of Manchester United. The majority of you are, right?" he asked as the reporters burst out laughing, some disagreeing.

Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and its citizens. In 1997, Malaysia allowed Israel to compete in the 22-nation ICC Trophy criket tournament but the decision sparked a series of demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur.

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