Football: Chelsea lodge Benayoun racism complaint

LONDON - Chelsea have lodged an official protest with the Malaysian Football Association over what they said was racist abuse suffered by their Israeli player Yossi Benayoun in Kuala Lumpur last week.

The midfielder was booed and jeered whenever he touched the ball in the 1-0 win against Malaysia in the capital of the Muslim-majority country last Friday.

Benayoun was the first Israeli to play in Malaysia, which strongly supports the Palestinians and does not recognise Israel, maintaining no diplomatic ties with the country. Some 60 per cent of Malaysia's population is Muslim.

Chelsea had initially downplayed the abuse, saying after the game it was as a consequence of a bad tackle by the Blues midfielder.

But after reviewing the match the Premier League giants announced they had decided to make a formal complaint.

A statement on the club'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 behaviour 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.

"Our stay in Malaysia was, on the whole, a very positive experience for all the team travelling on the pre-season tour. It is a shame, therefore, that the behaviour of a minority of supporters is also a memory we take away."

A Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that "mischievous people" were to blame for the abuse.

"FAM did not anticipate this reaction from the crowd. FAM has not investigated the matter yet," the official said, adding that the association expected to release a statement in due course.

FAM secretary-general Datuk Azuddin Ahmad told AFP he had no comment to make before the association met to discuss the matter.