Malaysian soccer federation says sorry to Israeli player for suffering anti-Semitic abuse

The Football Association of Malaysia has offered a qualified apology to the leading English soccer club Chelsea FC and its Israeli player Yossi Benayoun for any anti-Semitic abuse suffered during a recent match in the capital Kuala Lumpur. "From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match and this surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football loving country," the soccer federation of the South East Asian country said in a statement. "The FA of Malaysia would like to strongly register that we do not condone any form of racism in football. If such an incident did happen, we would like to apologize to the player concerned, and also to Chelsea FC," it added.

The qualified apology comes after the FA of Malaysia received a complaint from Chelsea over alleged racist abuse targeted at Benayoun during a friendly match with a Malaysian team in Kuala Lumpur in mid-July. The midfielder was booed and jeered whenever he touched the ball. Benayoun was the first Israeli to play in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country which strongly supports the Palestinians and does not maintain  diplomatic ties with Israel.

A statement on Chelsea's website read: "Notwithstanding most fans behaving appropriately on the night, we believe Yossi was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by a number of supporters at the game. Such behavior is offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football. The club did not make representations at the time as it was initially unclear as to the nature of the abuse Yossi received, as several players from both teams experienced similar treatment, sometimes louder and longer. However, having taken time to consider the issue fully, it has become apparent that a formal complaint was necessary."

Recently, a government-linked newspaper claimed that foreign Jewish groups might try to use an opposition-backed push to reform electoral laws to interfere in Malaysian politics. The 'Utusan Malaysia' daily said in an editorial that Malaysians "cannot allow anyone, especially the Jews, to interfere secretly in this country's business." It offered no evidence of a possible Jewish plot and named no specific group. When the drums are pounded hard in the name of human rights, the pro-Jewish people will have their best opportunity to interfere in any Islamic country... We might not realize that the enthusiasm to support actions such as demonstrations will cause us to help foreign groups succeed in their mission of controlling this country." Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak's office later issued a rare statement distancing itself from the allegation.

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