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article imageManchester United Forced to Cancel Match in Jakarta

By Chris Dade     Jul 17, 2009 in Sports
Tens of thousands of Manchester United fans in Indonesia will miss out on the chance to see their heroes following news that the English soccer club has canceled its visit to the country after the bomb blasts that rocked the capital city Jakarta.
After a match against a Malaysia XI on Saturday, being played in the capital Kuala Lumpa, the English Premier League champions were due to move on to Jakarta, where they were scheduled to run out in front of a crowd of 100,000 people on Monday to take on an Indonesia Super League XI.
But with the news that the Ritz-Carlton hotel, in which they were due to be staying for four nights, was one of those destroyed by the bombings that have claimed at least nine lives and injured at least 50 other people, the club from Old Trafford have been forced to cancel what would have been their first visit to the South-East Asian country in over 30 years.
Acting on advice from the British Foreign Office, Manchester United issued the following statement, reported by the BBC, explaining their decision not to visit Indonesia and expressing their sympathy for those affected by what are being described as suicide bomb attacks:Following the explosions in Jakarta - one of which was at the hotel the team were due to stay in - and based on advice received, the directors have informed the Indonesian FA that the club cannot fulfill the fixture in Jakarta on the 2009 Asia tour. We are working on a revised itinerary outside Indonesia with the promoters and we will make a further announcement when these decisions have been made. We are deeply disappointed at not being able to visit Indonesia and thank the Indonesian FA and our fans for their support. Our thoughts go to all those affected by the blasts
The club's plans are very uncertain at the moment. They may remain in Malaysia for the four nights that they were due to have been in Indonesia, Chief Executive David Gill even raised the possibility that the Indonesian side may be brought to Kuala Lumpar to play the scheduled match, but at this early stage it is not known how feasible that idea would be.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson also spoke of his "shock" upon learning of the bombings and his own personal disappointment at not being able to visit a country in which, like many others in the Far East, his side enjoys considerable popularity. The Daily Mail is one of the papers carrying the following comment from the 67 year old Scot, who has been at the helm at Old Trafford since 1986:We got the news as we landed and it is very disappointing. I have never been to Indonesia before and I know the Indonesian FA have worked very hard on this. It is terrible news but we have taken what I believe to be the right decision in terms of safeguarding our players
In addition to Malaysia and Indonesia, the Manchester club also has visits to South Korea and China coming up as they prepare for their 2009/10 defense of the Premiership crown.
It may seem rather frivolous to be discussing sport in light of such a tragedy as the one the Indonesian people have just witnessed. But sport, perhaps soccer more so than any, can often provide a welcome diversion from some of life's more unpleasant aspects and the family and friends of those killed or injured by the terrorists quite likely include people who follow the fortunes of Manchester United, or teams like them. As understandable as their absence will be, had the famous English club been able to fulfill the fixture in Jakarta it would have probably sent a message of defiance to those who seem to despise anything that may either give people pleasure or help engender a spirit of universal friendship and solidarity.
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