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Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 16:01 UK

Chelsea visit sparks Malaysia row

Chelsea manager Avram Grant celebrates victory over Manchester United in London, UK on 26 April, 2008
Mr Grant's Israeli citizenship has sparked protests from Malay Muslims

Malaysian Muslim groups have called for protests when Chelsea football club visits in July because the coach, Avram Grant, and a player are Israeli.

An alliance of 21 Muslim groups is angry the Malaysian authorities have given permission for the Israelis to visit the country with the London club.

Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and the Malay Muslim majority is strongly pro-Palestinian.

Malaysian citizens are banned by their government from visiting Israel.

Stadium protest

The Muslim groups said allowing Mr Grant and midfielder Tal Ben Haim into Malaysia for the pre-season match would be "insensitive" to the Palestinian people.

"Malaysians should boycott the match," said spokesman Muhammad Azmi.

"We should unite with the Palestinian people and fight for an independent homeland for them."

Mr Azmi said the alliance of Muslim organisations would hold a protest at the stadium ahead of the game on 29 July.

It is not unusual for Premiership sides to visit Malaysia, to satisfy the state's huge hunger for English football, says the BBC's Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur.

While anti-Israeli sentiment is not uncommon in Malaysia, it would be embarrassing for the government if Chelsea were to cancel the visit and arrange an alternative fixture in a neighbouring country, our correspondent says.




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