Indonesia loses U-20 Event over Israel ban

The Muslim-majority nation had been set to host this year’s Under-20 soccer World Cup 20 May to 11 June.

By Erin Viner

“FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023,” a said a statement from the governing body of world soccer.

Jakarta was stripped of the honor to stage this year’s games after its national football federation Persatuan Sepak Bola Seluruh Indonesia (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because the governor of the largely Hindu Island of Bali refused to host Israel’s team.

Despite appeals by Israeli leadersIndonesia refuses to recognize the Jewish State.

86.7% of the Southeast Asian country’s population is Muslim . While most identify themselves as practicing ‘a moderate version of Islam,’ but there has been a rise in religious extremism in recent years that has infiltrated the political sphere.

Earlier this month, protesters waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags marched in the capital Jakarta to demand Israel’s exclusion from the U-20 World Cup 2023 .

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged,” said the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, while underscoring that, “Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage.”

The decision was taken following a meeting between FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino and Chairman Erick Thohir.

Indonesia is a FIFA member, so for any international soccer matters, we have to abide by the rules,” Thohir said in a statement posted on PSSI’s website, as he also urged “all football lovers to keep their heads held high over this tough decision by FIFA.”

Loss of hosting rights will be a big setback in Indonesia, where football has a massive following, despite the lack of international success since qualifying for the 1938 World Cup as the Dutch East Indies. While it had been granted automatic qualification to participate in the the Under-20 World Cup as official host, the country has not played in the tournament since 1979.

Deputy PSSI Chief and former Sports Minister Zainudin Amali told KompasTV that FIFA took action after deciding Indonesia “didn’t follow through with its earlier commitments while bidding.”

While expressing hope sanctions will not be imposed and that he fears an additional FIFA ban , Amali said the removal of hosting rights “is already tough for us.”

The PSSI acknowledged that the loss of hosting rights will damaged Indonesian football teams’ chances of taking part in other FIFA tournaments, while the economic losses would amount to “trillions of rupiah,” the local currency. (Rp 15,032.65 Rupiah is equivalent to $1.00, Rp 16,381.83 is equal to € 1.00)

For the first time in history, FIFA brokered a deal last November to facilitate the first direct flights from Israel to Qatar for Jewish and Palestinian fans to attend the World Cup.