KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian supporter group’s protest against the arrival of English Premier League clubs for lucrative friendly matches appears to have been heard with only 19 000 tickets sold for Tottenham Hotspur’s fixture today.
The “Ultras Malaya” had labelled the game against a Malaysian XI and also the July 24 Liverpool match as “circus matches”, angry at the disruption caused to their domestic league and World Cup qualifying preparations.
The group had asked fans to rip up any free tickets offered and urged people to boycott the match.
Spurs arrived in Malaysia yesterday morning ahead of the fixture with organisers hopeful they would be able to boost the attendance before kickoff at the 80 000 capacity Shah Alam Stadium.
“I hope we will reach 30 000 by tomorrow [today]. It will be a very entertaining game for the fans to enjoy the moments,” ProEvents Group chief executive officer Julian Kam said yesterday.
A less-than-half-full stadium will be an unusual sight for English clubs travelling to Malaysia.
In recent years, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have all managed to attract over 80 000 fans for friendly matches in the Southeast Asian nation. Those fixtures did not receive the same local protests.
The Ultras Malaya argue they have seen little impact over the years of the money-spinning matches and have fears about the health of the national team, who dwindle at a worst ever Fifa ranking of 166th.
Kam defended the fixture and said Malaysia would benefit from the arrival of fans flocking from around the region to see twice English champions Spurs, who ended the season in fifth on Sunday.
“The tourists will not just spend on the game, they will spend for the hotel, food and transportation, which is good for the country,” he said. — Reuters