Malaysia sorry for Benayoun abuse - if it took place

By Jennifer Lipman, July 29, 2011
Yossi Benayoun

Yossi Benayoun

The Malaysian Football Association has weighed in to the row over alleged antisemitic abuse directed at Israeli Chelsea player Yossi Benayoun at a match in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Chelsea lodged an official complaint following the match against Malaysian XI, when fans in the 85,000-strong crowd were heard jeering and booing at Mr Benayoun every time he touched the ball. The Israeli midfielder was substituted at half-time.

Chelsea said that the abuse was to such a level that a complaint was necessary.

The club added that such antisemitic abuse was "offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football".

Malaysia is a Muslim majority country with no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Mr Benayoun was the first Israeli player to play in the country in years; Tal Ben Haim and Avram Grant were both denied visas to enter the country.

In a statement the Malaysian FC said they did not condone such "any form of racism in football", but questioned whether it had taken place.

"From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match," they said. "This surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football loving country.

"If such an incident did happen, we would like to apologise to the player concerned, and also to Chelsea FC."

Israeli players have frequently encountered problems playing in Muslim countries.

Five years ago, West Ham took a team to train in Dubai but left Benayoun and another Israeli player, Yaniv Katan, at home because the UAE does not recognise Israel.

Tamir Cohen was also excluded from Bolton's trip to Dubai in 2009. "As an Israeli it would have been very difficult to get an entry visa," he said at the time.

Last updated: 10:18am, July 29 2011