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Malaysian fans may boycott May 27 Tottenham friendly

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Malaysian football supporters are irritated that the scheduled post-season friendly may interfere with preparations for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

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Tottenham Hotspur are scheduled to visit Malaysia in late May as part of a rare post-season international tour, but some Malaysian fans aren't too happy about the prospect. The Guardian is reporting that some football fans are urging a boycott of the scheduled friendly as it could disrupt the Malaysian national team's preparations in two upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.

Tottenham are scheduled to play a "Malaysian XI" team comprised of players from the Malaysian domestic league on May 27 in Kuala Lumpur. The match is part of a post-season tour to the far East and Australia after the conclusion of the English Premier League season. A group of supporters, the "Ultras Malaya," are concerned that the friendly against Spurs is a meaningless match that could compromise the Malaysian national team's efforts to secure results in two upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against East Timor on June 11, and Palestine on June 16. The group is also protesting a similar friendly against Liverpool in early July,

The frustrations of Malaysian fans are probably justified, at least nominally: a post-season visit from an EPL team doesn't really benefit either club in any way except financially, so it's easy to dismiss this entire tour as one intended only to make money. Which it is. The Malaysian market is a huge one, and Spurs are obviously keen to give their #brand a foothold in Asia. It's undoubtedly one reason why Spurs' kits are sponsored by AIA, a Hong Kong-based pan-Asian insurance company.

However, this match is scheduled for May 27, a good two weeks before the scheduled World Cup qualifiers. While injuries are a concern, it certainly wouldn't be difficult for the organizers of this friendly to hold out key Malaysian national team members from participating, if they wanted to ensure that their best players are healthy. Because this match is undoubtedly a cash cow for everyone involved, the chances of the match being cancelled or postponed are virtually nil. It might keep a few hard-core Malaysian football fans home, but I'd guess there are plenty of other Asian Tottenham fans who will fill the void.

The fan group has started the hashtag #SayNoToCircusGames on Twitter in an attempt to raise awareness of their protest. There are no indications which Tottenham Hotspur players are acrobats and which are the clowns.