FIFA strips Indonesia of Under-20 World Cup amid Israel row

FIFA strips Indonesia of Under-20 World Cup amid Israel row

updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:29 PM
Indonesians shouted anti-Israel slogans over its participation in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup at a Jakarta march
Indonesians shouted anti-Israel slogans over its participation in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup at a Jakarta march. Photo: ADEK BERRY / AFP/File
Source: AFP

FIFA announced on Wednesday it had removed Indonesia as hosts of this year's under-20 World Cup amid political turmoil over Israel's participation.

The decision was made "due to the current circumstances", FIFA said in a statement without specifying details.

"A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged," it added.

The draw for 24-team tournament beginning on May 20 was due to be held on Friday in Bali, but FIFA cancelled the event last week without offering a reason or setting a new date.

Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, and support for the Palestinian cause in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation runs high, fuelling local opposition to hosting the Israeli team.

As well as Bali's governor calling for Israel to be kicked out of the tournament, around a hundred conservative Muslim demonstrators marched in the capital Jakarta this month to protest its participation.

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Indonesian officials earlier this week said any failure to host the tournament could result in sanctions that would leave them out of other international football competitions including qualifiers for the World Cup and the Asian Cup.

They said losing the tournament could result in trillions of rupiah (1 trillion rupiah = $66 mn) in economic losses.

Further sanctions possible

FIFA added that potential sanctions against the Indonesian football association (PSSI) "may also be decided at a later stage".

"I have tried my best. After delivering a letter from (Indonesia) President Jokowi, and talking at length with the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, we must accept FIFA's decision to cancel the holding of the event that we were both looking forward to," said Erick Thohir, head of the Indonesian FA, after the talks in Doha.

"Indonesia is a member of FIFA, so for international football matters, we must follow the rules that have been set. FIFA considers that the current situation cannot be continued, we must submit," he said.

"We have to be strong. I ask all football lovers to keep their heads held high over this tough decision by FIFA. Because I am of the opinion, because of that, this is the time we have to prove to FIFA to work harder to transform football, towards clean football and achievements."

Indonesia have not played in the tournament since 1979. They had automatically qualified for the tournament as hosts but will now lose that place to the new hosts once selected.

It was set to be the first major football tournament hosted by the Southeast Asian archipelago nation.

The cancellation also comes after a stadium stampede in October last year left 135 people dead in East Java, one of the worst disasters in the sport's history.

"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, in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022."

Israel qualified for the tournament for the first time following their run to the final of last year's European Under-19 Championship, where they finished runners-up to England.

AFP photo