03/27 22:15 CDT Indonesia's stance on Israel overshadows world soccer event
Indonesia's stance on Israel overshadows world soccer event
By NINIEK KARMINI
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) --- Uncertainty over the timing and location of the
Under-20 World Cup continues two days after Indonesian authorities postponed
the official draw for the May 20-June 11 tournament because of protests over
The draw, scheduled to held in Bali on Friday, was delayed indefinitely by
Indonesia's soccer federation amid backlash from conservative Islamic groups.
Doubt had already been cast on the draw ceremony when the governor of Bali,
Wayan Koster, called for a ban on Israel playing there because of Indonesia's
diplomatic support for the Palestinian cause.
FIFA, the sport's world governing body, has not commented on Indonesia's status
as host or a reported offer from Argentina to stage the event, with the
trade-off of having an Argentine team in the tournament.
Pressure on Indonesia's soccer association, the PSSI, and its chairman Erick
Thohir is mounting because if local authorities fail to resolve the hosting
issues over Israel, the country risks being suspended by FIFA and potentially
missing out on Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.
Thohir is a former owner of major international teams, including Italian soccer
giant Inter Milan and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and has been Indonesia's
minister of state-owned enterprises since 2019.
His sport and political diplomacy skills will be seriously tested. Thohir and
FIFA president Gianni Infantino are also both members of the International
" Continue to be passionate about finding solutions to every challenge, for the
sake of an increasingly global Indonesia," Thohir wrote in a Twitter post aimed
at resolving the impasse.
Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir
Effendy, said Thohir planned to fly to Zurich to hold further meetings with
"We are still conducting talks," Effendy, who is also serving as the acting
minister of youth and sports, said after a cabinet meeting Monday. "We hope we
can find the answer and at least FIFA will understand Indonesia's position in
Effendy also said that Indonesia submitted conditions to FIFA about the
presence of Israel during the tournament, but there was no common ground. He
did not reveal the conditions.
"This is not merely a rejection or protest, but this is related to our
country's Constitution," he said in response to questions about the leaders of
two provinces selected as tournament venues pushing back against hosting the
Thohir only took over as leader of the PSSI after a government investigation
concluded that the national soccer association had been negligent and ignored
safety and security regulations ahead of a deadly stadium crush last October
and replaced its chair and executive committee.
The disaster in Kanjuruhan stadium in East Java's Malang city was among the
world's worst sporting tragedies, with 135 people killed after police fired
tear gas inside the venue, setting off a panicked run for the exits.
The Israeli team, which qualified for the Under-20 world tournament for the
first time, had been expected to be based in Bali, home to one of the six
stadiums scheduled to be used for the tournament, but the governor's comments
have thrown that into doubt.
Then Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, who is also the frontrunner for the 2024
presidential election, joined calls for the Israeli team to be denied a place
in the tournament.
Pranowo said as a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, widely
known as PDIP, he would uphold the mandate of Indonesia's first president
Sukarno, whose daughter Megawati Sukarnoputri is chair of the party.
"We know Bung Karno's commitment to Palestine, whether in the Asia-Africa
Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement or the Conference of the New Emerging
Forces," he said last week, referring to Sukarno's popular nickname, "So, we
follow his mandate."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation with about 277
million people and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
However, Indonesian soccer and public authorities agreed to FIFA's hosting
requirements in 2019 before being selected to host the 2021 edition of the
Under-20 World Cup, which was subsequently postponed for two years because of
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Israel qualified last June by reaching the semifinals of the Under-19 European
Championship. The team went on to lose the final to England.
The Israeli football federation plays continental competition under the
European soccer umbrella after leaving the Asian Football Confederation in 1974
because of boycotts from the some national teams.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports