By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JAKARTA (Worthy News) – Soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, says it has removed Indonesia’s right to host the Under-20 World Cup because the predominantly Muslim country objected to Israel’s participation.
“FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FU-20 World Cup 2023,” it said.
On Friday, FIFA added that still, unspecified sanctions were in the table.
The cancellation drew anger among soccer fans who hoped that the tournament in May and June would bring the world’s fourth-most populous country one of its largest sporting events ever.
With 24 teams playing in six venues – four in Java, one in Sumatra, and the other in Bali – it was seen as a chance to show the world that Indonesian “football,” as soccer is also called, is not about deadly stadium disasters or corruption.
Supporters of the event hoped to underline the different cultures, colors, and religions in Indonesia. Yet the governor of the predominantly Hindu holiday island of Bali refused to host Israel’s team.
‘FORBIDDING ISRAEL TEAM’
Governor Wayan Koster had urged the Ministry of Youth and Sports to “adopt a policy forbidding the Israeli team from competing in Bali,” media reported, citing a letter from Koster.
The governor of Central Java province, Ganjar Pranowo, also declined to host the Israeli national team saying he wanted to show “commitment to efforts for Palestinian independence.”
He added that supporting Palestinian independence was based on the preamble to the 1945 Constitution.
“Written under the first Indonesian President Soekarno, it says: ‘freedom is the inalienable right of all nations so that colonialism must be abolished in this world as it is not in conformity with humanity and justice,” Pranowo recalled.
However, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Indonesia had agreed to host before knowing Israel would be playing.
Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, underlined Indonesia’s support for Palestine and a two-state solution. “I hereby guarantee Israel’s participation has nothing to do with the consistency of our foreign policy position toward Palestine. Because our support for Palestine is always strong and sturdy,” he said in televised remarks.
NO DIPLOMATIC TIES
But that did little to change the mind of influential Muslim politicians and their supporters.
Indonesia has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, and Indonesian Christians trying to visit the Jewish state told Worthy News that they regret the difficulties this causes.
“Muslim politicians support and pray for Palestine. Sadly, they are so much against Israel. The Bible says that God will curse those who are against Israel,” said a Christian woman who organized a home church in an interview with Worthy News. Her name wasn’t revealed amid security concerns.
Yet protesters have recently held marches, including in the capital Jakarta demanding Israel be stopped from competing in the 24-team event from May 20-June 11.
Indonesia’s population is predominantly Muslim, and most practice a moderate version of Islam, though a rise in religious conservatism has crept into politics in recent years.
Several churches and individual Christians have also faced attacks by Muslim extremists.
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