Indonesia in danger of losing youth World Cup

Indonesia in danger of losing youth World Cup
Protests against Israel’s participation in the under-20 World Cup

NOS Football

Three months after the much-discussed World Cup in Qatar, the next riot has broken out in which soccer and politics do not appear to go together. Indonesia is in danger of losing the organization of the under-20 World Cup.

That’s the tournament held in the Netherlands in 2005, when teenager Lionel Messi captured hearts with Argentina and took his first international prize.

How and where?

In just under two months, the 2023 edition should begin, but the big question is how and where? Increasing political pressure has already prevented the draw for the event from taking place in Bali on Friday.

That’s where the thunder began, when Governor Wayan Koster announced that he refused to host Israel’s participating team on the island. And his colleague Ganjar Pranowo of Central Java followed suit. People took to the streets en masse to protest Israeli participation.

Pranowo is also the big favorite in next year’s presidential election. A member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, he is acting in the spirit of Sukarno, who supported Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Back to soccer. Actually, the tournament was supposed to be played two years ago, with the Netherlands as one of the qualified countries. But the corona pandemic threw a spanner in the works. In a new qualifying cycle, the Netherlands failed to qualify again.

But Israel did grab a ticket for the first time in history.

Because of political tensions, Israel usually plays with its representative teams in the strong European qualification zone, with only occasional success. In 1970, it still made it to the major World Cup, but that was through Asia and Oceania. North Korea withdrew from the duels with Israel at the time.

And now there is another such rare highlight for Israel, while Indonesia yearns more than ever for its own first.

Stadium disaster

Indeed, FIFA decided to pass on the organization of the canceled World Cup and award Indonesia the 2023 edition. That was even before a major stadium disaster in October 2022 badly damaged the country’s image, after which doubts about a major soccer tournament in the Asian country were already growing. So will this Israel issue be the straw?

Indonesia also risks suspension if it sticks to its position of keeping Israel out.

Soccer has become hugely popular in Indonesia

Sports and politics should remain separate, a dissent is now also heard from several quarters.

“As long as Indonesia has expressed its willingness to host, Indonesia should take the risk of not rejecting members of international event organizers,” Professor of International Law Hikmahanto Juwana believes. “The rejection of the Israeli team is regrettable.”

The Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia sees no objections to the participation of an Israeli soccer team.

Argentina aces organization

And if sports and politics cannot be separated, there seems to be no other option for world soccer federation FIFA than to assign the event to another country. Argentina is said to have already applied to take over the tournament, allowing it to participate as host country through the back door.

Erick Thohir doesn’t want it to come to that. The Indonesian federation president has already booked plane tickets to Zurich to discuss with FIFA what can still be salvaged.

“Remain passionate in finding solutions to every challenge, for the sake of an increasingly global Indonesia,” Thohir wrote on Twitter, making his intentions clear.

FIFA is refraining from commenting for now, but will slowly start to feel the pressure as well. The first match is already scheduled for May 20.

Kayleigh Williams