Friday, May 02, 2008


Last Saturday, Chelsea played Manchester United. Manchester United would have clinched and retained the premiership title had they beaten Chelsea. Instead my team, Manchester United lost 2-1.

I watched the game at Hamiid Restoran, a popular eatery in Tampoi Indah which on match days is filled with English Premier League fans. That Saturday, it no different and with the typical multiracial crowd. Among them there were a sizeable number of Malay youths. When Chelsea scored they clapped and cheared. When Manchester United equalized they groaned and when Chelsea stole it at the end up went the roars and the high fives. It did not matter that Chelsea’s manager was an Israeli and that the Chelsea team also has an Israeli international Tal Bal Haim.

I cannot be wrong when I say that Chelsea is a popular team worldwide and that includes muslim middle east. To date no mullah’s has issued any fatwas against supporting Chelsea or for the matter against Avram Grant or Tan Bal Haim. Infact Chelsea is scheduled to play in the middle east.

So it comes as a surprise when a group of wet blanket decide to protest the visit by Chelsea to Malaysia. Maybe they are not against Chelsea per se but their bone of objection is rather against Avram Grant and Tal Ben Haim. According to the coalition of 21 muslim groups’ spokesperson Muhamad Azmi Abdul Hamid, Israel is a rogue state and therefore this duo should be prevented entry. He further claims that the coalition intend to hold a massive protest at the tour match if the government did not bar the Israeli duo. He then pronounces an edict that Malaysians should boycott the match. My ass ! who is he to tell Malaysians to boycott the match or have the audacity to claim that his group represents Malaysians.

Let me ask this small minded person. How come he did not organise a massive protest when two young Malays footballers left for a brief training stint with Chelsea. None of them protested outside KLIA, threatened them with bodily injury or labelled them friend of the Jew. So lesson one is that if benefit is to be gained then it is all right to befriend a Jew. If the reason for their objection is that Malaysia has no diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, then the objection once again holds no water. Pray, tell me how come this group never objected when the government invited imminent Jews to participate and speak in conferences on Palestinian and Israeli conflict? So lesson two is that any Jew who is prepared to condemn the Jews may be welcomed to Malaysia. He is kosher. Just the other week, the Second Finance Minister Md Nor Yakcob urged the Malays to copy the Jews. No one kicked the Minister’s kaboosh and no group behaved like bats out of hell. The conclussion is that, there is only a small minority who wish to be vocal with their shifting principles. The majority of the Malaysians, thankfully, common sense still prevails.

Thus, credit must be given to Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Ahmad Albar for his courageous and wise decision to allow the Israeli duo to come to Malaysia. It may not have been an easy decision for him, considering that Malaysia do not have diplomatic ties with Israel and also not want to offend or incur the wrath of Malaysian Muslims. Rationality prevailed over emotions. Syabas and terima kasih, Datuk !.

No one is denying that the Israel- Palestinian conflict has gone on too long. The fault lies with both sides and deep rooted. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians are equally to be blamed for perpetuating the conflict for so long but must we bring religion and politics to sports? It is worth remembering that sports is the best way to foster good relationship. Sportsmen and genuine fans forget about colour and creed of the sportsmen. To them it does not matter if the footballer is an Israeli or a Jew or for the matter an Afgan Taleban. Sports transcend all and genuine fans just want to enjoy the beautiful game and wish to keep it free from politics, zealotory, and racist bigots. Syed Hamid Albar rightly epitomizes forward thinking Muslims when he said “we do not look at the aspects of politics”. Well said.

So to this group my advice is protest if you wish to but disrupt you shall not do. Please do not to shove your politics and religious zealotory on us, genuine football fans. Selamat datang to Malaysia, Chelsea. I will be supporting Malaysia.