U-20 World Cup: RI has Promises to Keep

Via a televised announcement on Tuesday, 28 March 2023, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has guaranteed that the Israeli team can participate in the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia from 20 May until 11 June 2023. The President emphasized that the participation of the Israeli team in the Indonesia-based World Cup has no connection with the consistency of the Nation’s foreign policy as regards Palestine.

President Widodo underlined that Indonesia’s support for Palestine remains “firm and strong.” The President also said that his government’s position regarding the U-20 World Cup is in agreement with the public stance of Palestine’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Zuhair Al-Shun.

“FIFA (The International Football Federation) has established rules its members must follow. Therefore, don’t mix sports with politics,” urged the Indonesian President.

Israel’s U-20 World Cup Team. Welcome in Indonesia?

The President opened his televised remarks by underlining that Indonesia remains consistent and steadfast in its support for the struggle for the freedom and independence of Palestine. Moreover, Indonesia continues to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Widodo continued: “Our position is in keeping this the (Indonesian) Constitution that rejects colonialism in any form. This is a position that Indonesia has always set forth in bilateral, multilateral, and other international forums.”

The President reminded the Nation that Indonesia won the right to host the U-20 World Cup after a lengthy selection and bidding process that left three countries – Peru, Brazil, and Indonesia – vying to host the games. In October 2019, Indonesia was finally declared the winner of the bidding process to host the U-20 World Cup. President Widodo said that Indonesia’s right to host the World Cup represents a huge honor for the Indonesian people. Adding: “Indonesia earned the trust (of FIFA) to host the U-20 World Cup in. We will operate a sporting event with the largest number of fans in the world.”

President Joko Widodo explained that, during the bidding process, when Indonesia won the right to host the World Cup, it was impossible to know which countries would eventually participate because the qualification matches were still underway. Adding: “That Israel would pass the selection process of the U-20 World Cup was only known in July of 2022.”

The U-20 World Cup 2023 will be the first time that Israel will compete in the event. For that reason, President Widodo said Israel’s participation has no connection with Indonesia’s political position vis-à-vis their involvement in the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia.

FIFA is aware of protests in some quarters to Israel’s attendance at the U-20 World Cup in Bali, including the refusal of Bali’s Governor to allow Israel to compete in Bali. A drawing to set the World Cup matches in Bali in late March has been postponed. As a result, the Indonesian government, including The Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) as a member of FIFA, is working to find a workable solution to the current imbroglio. 

Objectively, something has to give. It is inconceivable how Israel’s U-20 team can be barred from playing in a world tournament for which they have won a qualifying spot.

President Widodo said: “I have assigned the chairman of PSSI, Erick Thohir, to meet with the FIFA team to seek the best solution.”

Thorir, also a member of the Indonesian Cabinet, has traveled to Switzerland to meet with FIFA officials.

Many observers have pointed out that in the recent past, official Israeli Government delegations have repeatedly been permitted to participate without incident in world summits held in Bali, including the World Inter-parliamentary Union, World Bank Summit, and International Monetary Fund.

If Indonesia follows through on the recommendation of Bali’s Governor and bans Israel’s participation in the World Cup, questions arise regarding the planned hosting of the World Beach Games 05-12 August 2023 and the desire to host the 2036 Olympic Summer Games. Indonesia’s Olympic bid is an aspirational pet project of President Joko Widodo

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