Indonesia’s hosting duty for the 2023 U-20 World Cup is suddenly being called into question, after world soccer’s governing body FIFA moved to cancel the tournament’s group stage draw in Bali scheduled for March 31, amid growing opposition to the participation of Israel.
A number of regional heads and chapters from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have been vocal in their criticism in recent days, although analysts believe their statements are politically motivated.
With slightly less than two months left before the youth competition begins, all eyes are on the government to be able to decisively curb the swell of political protest against a global sports event that many prefer to keep apolitical.
A member of the Soccer Association of Indonesia’s (PSSI) executive committee, Arya Sinalungga, said the draw to determine the group fixtures had been canceled without further notice.
“For now, we’re still trying to figure out a way for Indonesia not to be ostracized by the global soccer community,” Arya said at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in South Jakarta.
He said PSSI head Erick Thohir would report this development to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and a crisis call with FIFA may be on the cards in the next few days.
Israel is one of the 24 teams that have qualified for the tournament, which is set to begin on May 20. But Indonesian people have been steadfast in their support of the Palestinian struggle and the fact that Jakarta maintains no formal relations with Tel Aviv, the occupying force in the Middle East conflict.