Malaysia fans may miss out on Chelsea appearance

Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and its citizens -- including Grant and midfielder Tal Ben Haim -- must obtain special permission to travel here.

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The Football Association of Malaysia told a press conference that tour organisers would raise the issue with the foreign ministry in order to obtain clearance for the pair.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, who announced matches in Malaysia on July 29 and in China tentatively on July 23 in the southern city of Guangzhou, was confident approval would be secured.

"We really do not anticipate that to be a problem. We think it can be solved," Kenyon said.

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But he indicated the London side could be forced to ditch the Malaysian visit if Grant and Ben Haim were banned from entering the country.

"We clearly could not travel without our top coach. This (tour) is a critical part of training for the 2008-2009 season," he told .

"It will make no sense to travel without a key member of the coaching staff."

Chelsea, who have strong support in Malaysia, are scheduled to play the much-derided national team who have slipped down the rankings to 164 after their heyday in the 1970s. The Chinese opponents have not yet been announced.

Kenyon said the tour was aimed at boosting football's profile in Asia. As in much of the region, the Premier League is wildly popular in Malaysia, although the national team attracts little support and sparse crowds.

"We are delighted we are coming to Asia, in particular Malaysia. Asia is an important region for football. We want football in Asia to grow from the top to the grassroots (level)," he said.

In 1997, Malaysia allowed Israel to compete in the 22-nation ICC Trophy cricket tournament here but the decision sparked a series of demonstrations in the capital.

Malaysia's population is dominated by muslims Malays, but the nation is also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

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