Indonesia is relieved by FIFA of hosting the U20 World Cup

GENEVA — Indonesia was withdrawn from hosting the men’s U20 World Cup on Wednesday, just eight weeks before the start of the tournament, amid political turmoil over Israel’s participation.

FIFA said Indonesia had been barred from hosting the 24-team tournament due to start on May 20 “due to the current circumstances”, without giving details.

The decision came after a meeting in Doha between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the President of the Football Association of Indonesia, Erick Thohir.

Israel qualified for their first U20 World Cup last June. But the country’s participation in Friday’s scheduled draw in Bali provoked political opposition this month.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, while publicly supporting the Palestinian cause.

Indonesia’s hosting was called into question on Sunday when FIFA postponed the draw.

It is unclear who could now host the tournament, which was to be played in six stadiums in Indonesia. Argentina, who did not qualify for the tournament, are reportedly interested in hosting.

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

The Indonesian Football Federation could be further disciplined by FIFA. A suspension could take Indonesia out of Asia qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, which begins in October.

FIFA on Wednesday appeared to remove all blame from Thohir, the former president of Italian club Inter Milan – the team that backs Infantino – and a former co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.

FIFA staff will continue to be active in Indonesia in the coming months, the governing body said, “under the leadership of President Thohir”.

Football and authorities in Indonesia approved FIFA’s host requirements in 2019 before being selected to host the 2021 edition of the U20 World Cup. Due to the corona pandemic, the tournament had to be postponed by two years.

But Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Tuesday night his government has objected to Israel’s participation. He told citizens that the country agreed to host before it knew Israel would qualify.

Israel qualified by reaching the semi-finals of the U19 European Championship. The team lost to England in that final.

Israel plays in Europe as a member of UEFA, having left the Asian Football Association in the 1970s for political and security reasons.

FIFA calls the U20 Men’s World Cup “the tournament of tomorrow’s superstars”.

Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba are previous winners of the Official Player of the Tournament award and Erling Haaland was the top scorer at the 2019 edition.

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