FIFA ejects Indonesia as U-20 World Cup host over Israel controversy

BenarNews staff
FIFA ejects Indonesia as U-20 World Cup host over Israel controversy Indonesians participate in a rally in Jakarta to persuade the government to reject participation by Israel’s team in the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023, March 20, 2023.
Adek Berry/AFP

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET on 2023-03-30

FIFA removed Indonesia as host of the U-20 World Cup 2023, the international football’s governing body announced Wednesday following calls in the Muslim-majority country to ban the Israeli team from participating in the tournament.

This is the second football-related blow for Indonesia in six months, after 135 people were killed in a post-match stampede at an East Java stadium.

FIFA made the announcement a day after Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said his country would host the tournament and assured citizens that Israel’s participation would not change Jakarta’s political stance supporting Palestinian statehood.

“FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023,” a statement from the Zurich-based football body said. “Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage.”

The statement came after a meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Erick Thohir, president of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI).

FIFA said a new host would be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament, May 20 to June 11, remaining unchanged. The statement did not explain what it meant by “the current circumstances” and did not mention Israel.

“FIFA would like to underline that despite this decision, it remains committed to actively assisting the PSSI, in close cooperation and with the support of the government of President Widodo, in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022.”

FIFA added that members of its team would remain in Indonesia in the coming months to provide assistance to the PSSI.

Indonesia had prepared six stadiums for the U-20 World Cup, with the final match set to be held in the Central Java city of Solo, Jokowi’s hometown, where his son is mayor.

But the country’s plan to host the tournament was said to be in jeopardy after FIFA postponed the tournament’s draw, which was to take place on Friday in Bali, following calls by politicians and Muslim groups to ban Israel.

Earlier this month, Bali Gov. I Wayan Koster, a member of Jokowi’s ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said he would not welcome Israel’s team on his Hindu-majority island, citing Israel’s “continuing occupation” of Palestinian land.

Last week, Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, a presidential hopeful, said he, too, was opposed to Israel’s participation.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has no diplomatic relations with Israel. It has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights and statehood for decades.

On Tuesday, Jokowi said politics and sports should not mix, adding Israel’s participation would not affect Jakarta’s support for Palestine.

But as an analyst pointed out to BenarNews, FIFA took action against Russia.

“FIFA also banned Russia from participating in international events for invading Ukraine, which is also a form of politicization. So FIFA’s stance doesn’t show that football is detached from politics,” Reza Widyarsa, an international relations lecturer at Paramadina University, told BenarNews.

This report has been updated to clarify some information from the FIFA statement.


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