Bitter Pill for Indonesian Football


President Joko Widodo met with FIFA President Giovanni Vincenzo Infantino in Bangkok, Thailand, November 2 2019. The meeting discussed Indonesia’s preparations to host the U-20 World Cup in 2021. FIFA finally removed Indonesia’s host status on Wednesday (29/3/ 2023).

The hard efforts made by the Indonesian government and footballcommunity to host an international footballevent, the FIFA U-20 World Cup, for the first time has finally come to an end. FIFA removed the rights of Indonesia as host, given to Indonesia at the end of 2019 after a meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and chairman of the FootballAssociation of Indonesia (PSSI) Erick Thohir in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday (29/3/2023).

In its statement, FIFA wrote that “the current situation” was the reason for the removal of Indonesia as host.

The decision confirmed the indication that emerged a week earlier after FIFA canceled the drawing for the U-20 World Cup that was scheduled to take place in Bali on 31 March. The drawing should have opened a series of events related to the U-20 World Cup, such as the launching of the tournament theme song, ticket sales, online matches and a trophy parade in six host cities from 2 April to 7 May.

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The PSSI said the event was canceled following the Bali provincial government’s rejection of the presence of the Israeli team, one of the U-20 World Cup participants. The rejection, which followed a wave of similar rejections from a number of figures and civil society organizations, was sufficient reason for FIFA to decide that the situation made it impossible for Indonesia to guarantee the safety of participants and to become the host.

The rejection of Israel’s presence in this event, which is of concern to a wide audience, is understandable given the mandate of the constitution, “colonialism on earth must be abolished because it is against humanity and justice.” It is also what has made Indonesia not open diplomatic relations with Israel, following Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories.


Indonesian U-20 team players (from right to left) Hugo Samir, Sultan Zaky Pramana, and Arkhan Kaka Putra cried after being told that FIFA had revoked Indonesia’s status as host of the U-20 World Cup in the lobby of the Sultan Hotel, Jakarta, Wednesday (29/ 3/2023).

However, hosting a world-class sporting event has consequences, ready to accept any participant who deserves to appear after qualifying. Because of that, it is also understandable the feelings of sadness and disappointment that are felt by the players, coaches, PSSI administrators, football fans and President Joko Widodo, who struggled to realize Indonesia’s dream of being host and appearing at the World Cup.

The dream of hosting the 2023 U-20 World Cup has vanished, and Indonesia is still waiting for sanctions that could affect its footballinternationally.

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This experience is a bitter pill to swallow in building better Indonesian football. Six stadiums in six cities that have been renovated according to FIFA standards, for example, are valuable legacies that must be maintained by managers, clubs, players, sports administrators and football support groups.

Equally important is building a strong national team through regular and tiered competitions so that they can eventually appear in the World Cup because of their quality that can compete with other countries.

This article was translated by Hendarsyah Tarmizi

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