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Indonesia dropped from hosting FIFA U-20 World Cup after refusing to let Israeli team compete

Protesters burn an Israeli flag and a picture of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during a protest against Israel outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 21, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana)

Indonesia lost its opportunity to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup this year after regional leaders in the country refused to allow the Israeli team to compete in the tournament. 

Indonesian officials reported that Bali’s governor, Wayan Koster, called for Israel to be thrown out of the competition because of its policies towards Palestinians. Koster's declaration was allegedly backed by various other regional governors, who agreed that the Israeli team to be banned from playing in the tournament. 

FIFA announced on Wednesday that Indonesia would be dropped from hosting the 24-team tournament “due to the current circumstances” without specifying details. However, the decision was made after FIFA President Gianni Infantino met with the president of Indonesian Soccer Federation, Erick Thohir, to discuss Indonesia's controversial move.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo reportedly said on Tuesday that if Israel were to be allowed to participate in the tournament, it would not indicate any change in Indonesia’s foreign policy toward the Jewish state.

“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,” he said, adding that sports and politics should not be mixed.

The Israeli team is still scheduled to participate in the men's Under-20 tournament from May 20 to June 11. This will be the team's first time participating in the competition, having qualified for the Under-20 World Cup during the semi-finals of the Under-19 Championship in Europe. Israel subsequently lost to England in the finals..

It is uncertain which country will now host the tournament, which was scheduled to be played in six different stadiums across Indonesia.

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged,” FIFA announced on Wednesday.

Argentina’s Football Association reportedly offered to host the tournament earlier this week if Indonesia was no longer eligible. Argentina’s Under-20 team did not qualify for the tournament but could qualify if Argentina becomes the host nation. 

FIFA may reportedly choose to suspend the Indonesian soccer federation for its decision against the Israeli team. If so, Indonesia may lose the opportunity to compete in FIFA's 2026 World Cup.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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