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Why has FIFA removed Indonesia as hosts of the U-20 World Cup 2023?

The United States are one of the qualified teams for the tournament along with Israel, who are at the centre of the controversy.

The United States are one of the qualified teams for the tournament along with Israel, who are at the centre of the controversy.

FIFA have revealed that they have removed Indonesia as the host of the upcoming U-20 World Cup, which is scheduled to begin in under two months’ time. The United States are one of 24 nations preparing to take part in the tournament, which is due to run from 20 May until 11 June 2023. World soccer’s governing body now faces a late scramble to reorganise the event at short notice, although they have no plans to move things back to a later date.

FIFA statement: “current circumstances” to blame

FIFA released the following statement on their website on Wednesday:

“Following today’s meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and President of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) Erick Thohir, FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023™. A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged. Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage.

FIFA would like to underline that despite this decision, it remains committed to actively assisting the PSSI, in close cooperation and with the support of the government of President Widodo, in the transformation process of Indonesian football following the tragedy that occurred in October 2022. Members of the FIFA team will continue to be present in Indonesia in the coming months and will provide the required assistance to the PSSI, under the leadership of President Thohir.

A new meeting between the FIFA President and the PSSI President for further discussions will be scheduled shortly”.

Israel opposition sees Indonesia stripped as hosts

FIFA’s statement evidently leads to a number of questions: what are the “current circumstances”? Why could there be “potential sanctions”? What happened in the meeting between Infantino and Thohir?

The situation has been caused by Israel’s qualification for the U-20 World Cup for the first time in the country’s history. Indonesia has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel and, as the world’s most populated Muslim-majority nation, has been a very public supporter of Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier in March, protestors marched through the streets of Jakarta, waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags and expressing their view that Israel should not be allowed to participate in the tournament. Wayan Koster, the governor of Bali, one of Indonesia’s most well-known provinces, also addressed a letter to the Indonesian FA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in which he requested them to forbid the Israeli team from competing in Bali, where the draw was due to take place.

FIFA had already put the draw for the tournament back to this coming Friday but further high-level talks have led to the dramatic decision to strip Indonesia of the tournament due to government interference.

What next for Indonesia and FIFA?

Indonesia had qualified for the U-20 World Cup automatically as hosts and were set to compete in the tournament for the first time since 1979. They will now not be involved, however, with FIFA yet to comment on who will take their place.