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Bali Threatens to Derail U-20 World Cup

Bali has placed itself at the center of an international debate surrounding Indonesia’s hosting U-20 World Cup in mid-2023 and adopted a political stand that threatens the Indonesian government’s hard-fought plans to host an international sporting event and may put the World Cup planned for Indonesia at risk. Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster has written to the Minister of Youth and Sports urging that Israel be banned from participating in the U-20 (Under 20) Soccer World Cup in Indonesia from 20 May until 11 June 2023. The U20 matches will occur across the archipelago in Jakarta, South Sumatra, West Java, Central Java, East Java, and Bali.

Israeli U20 Team

As reported by, Governor Koster wrote to the Sports Minister on 14 March 2020 (Letter No. T.00.426/11470/SEKRET), saying that Israel’s political policies regarding Palestine were unacceptable to Indonesia. 

The Governor sent copies of the letter to The Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) and the Coordinating Minister for Human Development. 

Koster continued, saying Indonesia has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Therefore, to honor Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with other countries, the Governor recommends banning the Israeli U20 team from competing in Indonesia.

Koster describes the continuing conflict between Palestine and Israel as a “serious regional problem” in the Middle East.

“I hope the Minister of Youth and Sports (Menpora) will bar the Israeli team from competing in Bali. The Province of Bali rejects the participation of Israel in any Bali matches,” said Governor Koster.

Commenting on the Governor’s letter, the interim Youth and Sports Minister, Muhadjir Effendy, is quoted in saying on Tuesday, 21 March 2023: “I have received, communicated with the Governor, and held discussions. My conclusion and the conclusion I hope the one shared with Governor Koster, is that his letter represents a ‘comma’ and not a “period.'”

Indonesia Anti-Israel U20 Cup Protests

Acting Minister of Youth and Sports, Muhadjir Effendy has pledged to ensure the Israeli U-20 Team can compete in Indonesia’s World Cup U-20 2023. He reminded everyone concerned that Indonesia will act as the host for the coming U-20 World Cup. “Indonesia offered its services and was entrusted by FIFA to host the games. As the host country, Indonesia must be friendly and helpful,” said Effendy.

Muhajdir said the government must necessarily seek the best solution. Adding: “(The hosting) is a matter of government policy; we will therefore seek common ground. We are hosting after applying to host the event – we have to consider that. The Governor is an extension of the Central Government. I have been in touch, I have contacted him, there have been discussions, and all that remains is to continue discussions,” he concluded.

The Israeli U20 Team has earned a slot in the U20 World Cup Competition, sparking a national controversy and small public protests in Jakarta against Israel’s coming participation. As a member of the International Football Federation (FIFA), Indonesia must follow the association’s rules and fulfill its hosting duties by volunteering to host U20 competitive play.

FIFA regulations (Article 4, Paragraph 5) forbid politicizing FIFA-related competitions. Those rules specify that competition equipment and uniforms must be free of political, religious, or personal slogans, statements, or images. The only logos allowed on uniforms are manufacturer logos.

Any violation of this may result in sanctions by those holding the competitions, the National Soccer Association, or FIFA.

FIFA also forbids Indonesia, as the host of U-20 2023, from politicizing the competition.

FIFA has not formally announced its stance regarding any possible banning of Israel from US-20 play in Indonesia. Israel is one of the 24 countries with a slot to compete in Indonesia.

Israel earned its place in the final round of the U-20 World Cup 2023 after it won runner-up in the European U-19 2022 (Under 19), which serves as the qualifying round for countries playing under the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). 

Among the possible sanctions that FIFA could impose on Indonesia is blacklisting it in all future FIFA-related events held in Indonesia.

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