FIFA delegation members visit Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Gianyar, Bali, on March 27. After the fallout from attempts to block the Israeli national team from competing, FIFA removed Indonesia as host of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup on Wednesday. ( Antara/Fikri Yusuf)
FIFA has officially removed Indonesia as host of the 2023 U-20 World Cup following a surge of resistance against the participation of the Israeli national team, despite a last-ditch attempt to lobby the world soccer governing body by Erick Thohir, the chief of the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI).
Following a meeting between Erick and FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Doha on Wednesday, the federation decided to revoke Indonesia’s license to host the youth tournament. It did not make any mention of the recent pushback against Israel. ‘
“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged,” it said in a statement issued on its website.
“Potential sanctions against the PSSI” were also in the cards and could be decided at a later stage. The decision marks an abrupt end to Indonesia’s ambition to host another world-class sports competition, which the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has identified as an opportunity to expand Indonesia’s global appeal.
Calls to ban Israel from competing on Indonesian soil gained traction after politicians from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) threw their weight behind the idea, which had previously been promoted mainly by right-wing Muslim groups.
The ensuing FIFA decision has upset soccer fans across the nation, many of whom were nervously waiting for news of Erick’s eleventh-hour push in Qatar.
Read also: PDI-P criticizes FIFA ‘double standard’ on Russia, Israel
Soccer analyst Akmal Marhali, who coordinates the grassroots movement #SAVEOURSOCCER, warned that “the people who have kicked up a row” should not be allowed to escape responsibility for their actions. He threatened to launch a class-action lawsuit to recover material and immaterial losses suffered as a result of the tournament’s cancellation.
“They must beg the Indonesian people for forgiveness for costing us the opportunity to make history, for failing to follow through on an enormous task and for violating our own commitments. They must beg forgiveness to all our young players whose dream to play at the World Cup has been quashed,” Akmal said in a recorded statement on Wednesday evening.
“This is a truly painful incident for Indonesia and a very disconcerting occurrence in which the interest of the many were sacrificed for the political interest of the few.”’
The decision to revoke Indonesia’s hosting license comes less than six months after the deadly Kanjuruhan Stadium tragedy in Malang, Central Java, which sparked calls for reform in the industry and in Indonesian law enforcement.
FIFA, which was invited to help in the aftermath of the stadium crush, said it remained “committed to actively assisting the PSSI, in close cooperation and with the support of the [Indonesian government], in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022”.
In his own statement issued from Doha just after FIFA’s announcement, PSSI chief Erick said he had “fought to the best of his abilities” to bring Indonesia a favorable result but that as a member of FIFA, the nation would have to abide by the federation’s rules.
“I’ve tried my best. After delivering a letter from President Jokowi and talking at length with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, we must accept FIFA’s decision to cancel the event that we have been looking forward to,” he said.
“We must persevere. I ask every soccer fan [in this country] to keep your head up high in light of this difficult decision. I believe this is the time for us to prove to FIFA that we will work even harder to transform our soccer.”
A new meeting between the FIFA president and the PSSI president for further discussions was to be scheduled shortly, the federation said.
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta ● Thu, March 30, 2023
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