FIFA slaps Indonesia with financial sanction after U-20 World Cup fiasco

Pizaro Gozali Idrus
FIFA slaps Indonesia with financial sanction after U-20 World Cup fiasco Indonesian soccer fans light candles during a rally expressing their disappointment at the removal of the country as host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, in Jakarta, April 4, 2023.
Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo

Indonesia avoided a harsh penalty from FIFA after the world football governing body stripped it of hosting rights for the Under-20 World Cup 2023 amid a controversy over Israel’s participation, the national football chief said.

FIFA decided to impose a sanction that freezes the funding for the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) instead of banning Indonesia for a second time in eight years, the organization’s chairman, Erick Thohir, announced from France late Thursday.

“I can only say, thanks to the grace of God and the prayers of all Indonesians, especially soccer fans, Indonesia managed to avoid a heavy sanction of isolation from world football,” he said in a statement posted on the association’s website after meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Paris.

“FIFA only imposed administrative sanctions in the form of freezing FIFA Forward funds for PSSI’s operational needs. It will be reviewed again after FIFA studies Indonesia’s big football development strategy,” he added.

Infantino issued the decision on freezing the funds after Erick briefed FIFA about Indonesia’s strategic plan for football development and transformation.

Through the latest punishment, Erick said, the world football body showed Indonesia “a yellow card, instead of a red card.” 

In 2015, FIFA suspended Indonesia’s membership and banned its national and club teams from international competitions for a year after the sports ministry froze the soccer federation over a dispute involving two teams with dual ownership or management issues.

To support its member national associations in their football activities, FIFA provides up to U.S. $5 million each for operational costs such as staff salaries, administration and governance every four years under the Forward 3.0 launched this year.

Additionally, each member association can receive up to $3 million for specific football projects that align with long-term development goals. FIFA also offers extra assistance of up to $1.2 million each for the most needy member associations to help them with travel and accommodation expenses for their national teams and football equipment.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino holds a letter from the Argentina Soccer Association offering to host the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia’s place, at CONMEBOL headquarters near Asunción, Paraguay, March 30, 2023. [Jorge Saenz/AP Photo]
FIFA last week canceled Indonesia’s hosting rights for the U-20 World Cup, citing “current circumstances,” just weeks before the tournament was scheduled to begin.

The move came after some Indonesian politicians and Muslim groups spoke out against the participation of the Israeli team. Those refusing to host Israel included the governors of Bali and Central Java, where some of the tournament’s matches were scheduled to be held.

The decision outraged Indonesian football fans and players, who had been preparing for the event for years. Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.

Erick said FIFA would review the new sanction after assessing Indonesia’s strategic plan and would provide necessary assistance.

He also said that Indonesia would still be able to compete in the Southeast Asian Games next month, which is not on FIFA’s official calendar.

Erick is one of Indonesia’s richest men. He is the former owner of the Italian football club Inter Milan and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

FIFA has been working with Indonesia to improve its football infrastructure and management since the deadly stadium crush in Malang in October 2022 that killed 135 people. FIFA also agreed to assign officials to monitor its program in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, a new sports-related controversy emerged this week after Bali’s governor, I Wayan Koster, said he also opposed the participation of Israeli athletes at the World Beach Games scheduled for August on the island.

Koster’s remarks drew criticism from the head of the Indonesian Olympic Committee, who called on the central government to sit together to find a solution.


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