Israel-Malaysia relations and the place of football

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While seeking to establish their respective international positions following their foundation, Israel and Malaysia also interacted with each other. However, in light of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and mainly due to Malaysia’s domestic considerations and geo-political interests, the interactions remained limited and official relations were not established. This study relies on the notion that sport is potentially an important tool for engagement between states. It examines contemporaneous Israeli and Singapore press and brings together the various episodes and voices pertinent to the way Israel-Malaysia relations unfolded through football until the 1970s. The paper offers an historical perspective on the relations by focusing on a game that was highly popular in both countries. I argue that, while considering the various limitations that were involved, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and President of the Asian Football Confederation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, cautiously maintained the football channel with Israel open. Accordingly, in light of the significantly low-level of other means of contact, football functioned as a carefully managed yet meaningful line of communication by involving a prime minister, senior sports administrators, athletes, football fans, journalists, and sports readers. The essay thus contributes a case study to the emerging body of literature on football relations between states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1819-1834
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number17-18
StatePublished - 12 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Football relations
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • The Asian football confederation
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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