Indonesia stripped of hosting FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 over Israel row

Jonathan Regev & Joey Leizerowitz

3 min read
Protesters wave Palestinian flags during a protest in Jakarta, Indonesia.
AP Photo/Achmad IbrahimProtesters wave Palestinian flags during a protest in Jakarta, Indonesia.

A new host will be announced as soon as possible, and the tournament scheduled to kick off on May 20 will not be delayed

Indonesia has been stripped of its opportunity to host the Under-20 FIFA World Cup 2023, the world soccer body said Wednesday, after local officials said they would not allow Israelis to stay in their cities amid protests over Israel's participation in the tournament.

In a statement on FIFA's website, it said the decision was made following a meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the head of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), Erick Thohir.

FIFA earlier canceled an important pretournament event after regional governors and protesters demanded that Israel be banned from the U-20 event and for the exclusion of Israelis from staying in their cities – including in Bali, where the Israeli team was scheduled to play. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday that Israel's participation did not mean a change in the country's foreign policy "toward Palestine," arguing that sport and politics should not be mixed.

According to FIFA regulations, the host for any of its international tournaments must allow fans from all over the world to come to the matches, as was the case during the World Cup this past winter in Qatar.

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A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament—May 20 until June 11—currently unchanged. Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage, FIFA said in its statement. Argentine media outlet Doble Amarilla reported that the Argentine Football Association offered to host the tournament in the event that FIFA decided to strip Indonesia's hosting rights. 

"Despite this decision, it remains committed to actively assisting the PSSI, in close cooperation and with the support of the government of President [Joko] Widodo, in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022," FIFA noted, referring to a stampede after a soccer match in the city of Malang that left at least 125 people dead, including many minors.

Infantino and Thohir will soon meet again "for further discussions," FIFA added.

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