Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysia on Thursday defended striking a deal with Barcelona footballer Luis Suarez to help boost tourism after an opposition MP criticised the move to sign up a player notorious for biting rivals.
Government agency Tourism Malaysia inked the one-year deal in early November, hoping that using the Uruguayan in its marketing campaigns would attract more visitors to the tropical country.
While the striker is recognised as one of the world’s best players, he has also been the subject of controversy for sinking his teeth into rivals.
He was suspended from all football-related activity for four months after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup. He also faced bans in 2010 and 2013 for biting players.
Lawmaker Hee Loy Sian from the opposition People’s Justice Party on Thursday asked Tourism Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz in parliament why the decision had been taken given Suarez’s controversial track record.
He later told AFP he had no problem with using foreign players to promote Malaysia but the Uruguayan was not the right choice.
“We have a lot of better candidates,” he said.
But Nazri defended the decision, saying Suarez’s huge following on social media meant he would be able to attract more foreign visitors to Malaysia.
“If he is that bad, he would not have 25.3 million followers on Instagram — if he is bad, people won’t follow him,” he told parliament.
Malaysia is seeking to attract more foreign visitors, particularly from China. Last year almost 27 million tourists visited the country which is home to palm-fringed beaches and jungles.
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