Soccer: Malaysia may lift Israeli ban for Chelsea's Grant, Ben-Haim

Announce it will consider making exception after Premier League club's threat to cancel match.

avram grant 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
avram grant 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Malaysia will consider exceptions to its anti-Israeli visa policy in the wake of Premier League club Chelsea's threat to cancel a match here because of the stance. Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim, has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Chelsea has indicated it may have to abandon the Malaysian leg of preseason tour if coach Avraham Grant and midfielder Tal Ben-Haim, both Israelis, are not allowed into the country. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday the government would review the customary ban in the case of the Chelsea pair. "It would be a pity (if) politics get into the way of sports," Najib told reporters. I will have to study the situation first, but I would like to see Chelsea, even though it's not my team, to play here... it's good for local football," he added. Malaysia allowed Israel to play in an international cricket tournament here 1997, but it led to demonstrations by Muslim groups. Some 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslim. Chelsea will kick off its preseason tour with a match against Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Pharmaceutical on July 23, before playing a Malaysia select team at Kuala Lumpur on July 29. The tour, the west London club's first in Asia since May 2005, is the latest in an effort to boost its profile in the region.