Indonesia's stance on Israel casts doubt on Fifa Under-20 World Cup

Draw for tournament in Bali delayed indefinitely after a backlash over Israel's participation

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against Israel's participation in the tournament, in Jakarta in Indonesia. EPA
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Uncertainty continues to surround the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia because of protests over Israel’s qualification.

Dozens marched in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta last week to protest against Israel’s first participation in the tournament.

The draw for the tournament was delayed indefinitely by the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) after Bali Governor Wayan Koster called for a ban on Israel's participation because of Indonesia’s diplomatic support for the Palestinian cause.

The tournament is due to be played from May 20 to June 11 in Indonesia.

Fifa, football's world governing body, has not commented on Indonesia’s status as host.

Pressure on PSSI and its chairman Erick Thohir is mounting because of authorities' failure to resolve issues over hosting the tournament and facing disciplinary actions from Fifa.

Mr Thohir is a former owner of major international teams, including Italian soccer giant Inter Milan and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. He has been Indonesia’s minister of state-owned enterprises since 2019.

“Continue to be passionate about finding solutions to every challenge, for the sake of an increasingly global Indonesia,” Mr Thohir wrote in a Twitter post.

Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, said Thohir planned to fly to Zurich to hold further meetings with Fifa.

“We are still conducting talks,” Mr Effendy, who is also serving as the acting minister of youth and sports, said after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

“We hope we can find the answer and at least Fifa will understand Indonesia’s position in this problem.

“This is not merely a rejection or protest, but this is related to our country’s Constitution.”

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would delay the process for discussions on the planned judicial overhaul to next month. He said further readings of the justice bill will be delayed until after the Passover recess.

From his office in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu said he has “paused” the readings to reach a broad consensus “to prevent the rift in the nation”.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 6:10 AM