FIFA urges Man U to postpone Asia tour

FIFA on Tuesday urged Manchester United to postpone a planned Asian tour in July.

updated: May 11, 2007 17:16 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

FIFA on Tuesday urged Manchester United to postpone a planned Asian tour in July, backing Asian soccer chiefs who called the team "immoral" for scheduling a visit that clashes with the region's top tournament.

Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Macau, which hope to host Manchester United, should select new dates that do not clash with the July 7-29 Asia Cup tournament of the Asian Football Confederation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.

"It is legitimate to say you are welcome but please not at a time when we are playing, according to an international calendar accepted by the whole football family, our biggest competition in July here in Asia," Blatter said in a speech to the AFC's annual congress.

Timing crucial

AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam said that Asian countries welcomed cooperation with European clubs to share experience, noting that the AFC has cooperated well with teams such as Chelsea.

However, he said some foreign clubs often "impose themselves on Asia without any care or thought about our football."

He said Manchester's planned visit would come at a crucial time because it would compete directly with the AFC Asian Cup for spectator interest, television viewership and ticket sales.

"This is a lack of respect. This is completely unethical, immoral and unacceptable," he said.

He called on the countries involved to reschedule the tour. "This is the time for us to demonstrate our unity and solidarity by putting Asian football first in Asia," he said.

Blatter echoed Hammam's views. "As president of FIFA, I appeal to your solidarity ... solidarity and respect are two things that go together."

Malaysian officials recently announced that Manchester United will play a friendly soccer match in Malaysia on July 27. The match follows a deal that United signed last year to support tourism in this Southeast Asian country.

The Football Association of Malaysia has denied the United match would undermine attendance at Asian Cup pool games to be staged in Malaysia, which is co-hosting the tournament with Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.