FIFA strips Indonesia of U-20 World Cup months before tournament, vaguely cites 'current circumstances'
One match had already been canceled after a local governor called to ban Israel from playing
Indonesia won't host the U-20 World Cup this year, FIFA announced Wednesday, less than two months before the scheduled start of the tournament. The decision came after a meeting between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Indonesian soccer federation president Erick Thohir.
FIFA vaguely claimed it made the decision "due to current circumstances" and that "a new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged." The sport's international governing body added that Indonesia's football association, PSSI, could also face undisclosed sanctions as well.
"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 [Joko] Widodo, in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022," the statement read, a reference to an incident where more than 100 people died at a match when fans stormed the field and police used tear gas.
Sky News' Rob Harris also said FIFA felt the country wouldn't be ready to host after site visits.
While FIFA didn't explicitly say it, the underlying issue likely revolves around Indonesia's opposition to Israel competing in the tournament. A March 26 match that included Israel was postponed and eventually canceled amid protests. Earlier in the week, the governor of Bali asked the country's sports minister to ban Israel from participating entirely "out of respect" for Indonesia's diplomatic ties to Palestine. Indonesia's official foreign policy stance is in support of Palestine in its conflict with Israel over territory in the Middle East.
Indonesians hold street protest in Jakarta against Israel’s participation in FIFA U/20s World Cup, which will be hosted by Indonesia in May and June.
(Credit: @MCAOps) pic.twitter.com/YHjoIe37Hx
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) March 21, 2023
President Widodo, though, hoped to separate the country's stance on this international issue from the country's ability to host a soccer tournament.
"I hereby guarantee Israel's participation has nothing to do with the consistency of our foreign policy position toward Palestine, because our support for Palestine is always strong and sturdy," Widodo said during an address Tuesday. "Do not mix matters of sports and politics."
Indonesia was also suspended by FIFA for a year in 2015 because of too much government involvement in the country's governing body. The suspension was eventually lifted in 2016.