Argentina to host U20 World Cup after Indonesia loses rights amid Israel protests

FIFA announces soccer tournament will be held in South American nation after pulling it from Indonesia, which saw public and political opposition to Israel’s participation

Motorists commute past a poster for the Indonesia 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup football tournament in Jakarta on March 30, 2023 (BAY ISMOYO / AFP)
Motorists commute past a poster for the Indonesia 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup football tournament in Jakarta on March 30, 2023 (BAY ISMOYO / AFP)

Argentina has replaced Indonesia as the host of the Under-20 World Cup next month just over two weeks after Indonesia was stripped of the hosting rights following protests there against the Israeli soccer team’s participation, FIFA announced Monday.

FIFA never specified its reason for moving the tournament, merely saying Indonesia lost the tournament “due to the current circumstances.”

Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, and support for the Palestinian cause in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation runs high, fueling some local opposition to hosting the Israeli team.

Argentina, the record six-time champion, failed to qualify for the U20 World Cup but FIFA decided it will take Indonesia’s spot as host.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement that “the country of the defending World Cup champions will open its doors to the big stars of tomorrow’s world soccer.”

He also thanked local authorities “for hosting this great tournament with so little time.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives a press conference with the president of Kosovo Football Federation (not seen), during his first visit to Kosovo on September 30, 2022. (Armend NIMANI/AFP)

Argentina economy minister Sergio Massa said this country had signed “all the international deals that FIFA demanded from our government.”

The tournament draw is scheduled for Friday in Zurich. The event runs May 20-June 11.

Many Indonesian football players, fans and pundits reacted with sadness and anger after FIFA pulled the Under-20 World Cup from the host nation weeks before it was due to kick off, following protests against the Israel’s participation.

Some of the archipelago nation’s football prodigies took to social media with fury and heartbreak last month after losing the chance to play in what FIFA bills as the “tournament of tomorrow’s superstars.”

“Energy, time, sweat, and even blood we have put in, but in a moment failed because of political reasons. Here’s our big dream that you’ve destroyed,” wrote 19-year-old striker Rabbani Tasnim.

An Indonesian FA video showed players with heads bowed and their coach in tears after receiving the news that FIFA would seek a new host.

“We, the players, are now affected, not just us but all footballers,” said 18-year-old striker Hokky Caraka.

Indonesians inundated the Instagram page of Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo — one of the leading candidates in next year’s presidential election — with negative comments after he opposed Israel’s participation.

Bali’s governor had also joined the anti-Israel chorus and around a hundred conservative Muslim protesters held an anti-Israel rally in Jakarta.

Israeli delegations have been to Indonesia for sporting and diplomatic events before, including four Israelis who competed in the World Cycling Championship in Jakarta in February.

Indonesian soccer fans hold candles during a rally expressing their disappointment at the removal of the country as the host of FIFA U-20 World Cup, in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

A number of members of the Israeli Parliament who attended the Interparliamentary Union conference in Bali last year were also warmly welcomed by Indonesia’s house speaker Puan Maharani, the granddaughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, and Bali Governor Wayan Koster, who was the first to reject the Israeli youth soccer team.

An Israeli delegation also attended the COP-13 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali in 2007.

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