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Blatter criticizes money-making tours
Updated: 2005-02-04 17:07

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticized the continuing trend of top international sides and major European clubs playing "money-making" exhibition matches in Asia, the footballasia.com website reported.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, seen here in 2004, is now annoyed by the continuing trend of soccer scandal cases around the world.[AFP]

Next week's friendly between Brazil and Hong Kong, which will carry a price tag of more than one million US dollars, was singled out by Blatter during an interview with editors from Asian newspapers.

The game will give Hong Kong fans the chance to see superstars Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos in action but Blatter questioned the motives.

"It's (all about) money, FIFA cannot intervene," the Nation newspaper in Thailand quoted Blatter as saying. "But I agree it isnot good (for the game)."

Blatter added that promoters were willing to pay a "high price"to attract glamour teams to Asia and it was a case of "supply and demand."

But he feared that fans, who have shelled out for expensive match tickets, could be short-changed and that the Brazilian players risked burn out because of the demanding travel schedule.

"Players have to come a long way and return to play club matches. They will be tired and the quality will be down," he said.

Tickets for the match, to be staged next Wednesday during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday period, have been slow to sell with17,000 still available. Organizers say that demand will pick up once the Brazilian players arrive in Hong Kong.

Pre-season trips to Asia by leading European clubs have come under fire in the past because of the high cost and the toll they take on players.

Spanish giants Real Madrid made a whistle-stop trip to Asia in 2003 which was partly blamed for the side's poor start to the domestic season.

Manchester United, whose huge fan base in Asia fuels a massive commercial operation, have announced matches in Hong Kong and Beijing this summer.

During interviews, club officials tend to downplay the commercial aspects of such tours and highlight the desire to give something back to their fans.

"Our Hong Kong fans are some of the most dedicated in the world,and it's tremendous that we are able to repay their loyalty by playing for them here," said Manchester United commercial directorAndy Anson.

"The players were saying what a fantastic experience it was when they went on their Asian tour in 2001 (which included matchesin Singapore and Thailand). The reception we got was staggering. We're going to make sure our preparations are meticulous for this year's Tour."

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