As Indonesia’s hosting rights of the FIFA U-20 World Cup hang in the balance due to overwhelming anti-Israel sentiments, Solo’s Mayor Gibran Rakabuming says he does not wish to see all tournament preparations go to waste.
Previously, FIFA canceled the tournament draw – an essential procedure before the competition kicks off on May 20 – amid rejection of the Israeli youth team by Indonesian politicians and conservative groups. The draw was supposed to be held in Bali on March 31, yet the governor of the island that’s renowned for religious tolerance was among those to denounce the idea of Israelis playing football on Indonesian soil.
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Gibran, the eldest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was quoted as saying today that Solo, Central Java is ready to host the draw even at short notice. Solo is one of six Indonesian cities hosting the tournament, with the Manahan Stadium named as the venue for the U-20 World Cup final and closing ceremony.
“If there is an order [for Solo to host the draw] from PSSI (Indonesian Football Association) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, I am ready,” Gibran said.
In a separate interview, Gibran warned that all the sacrifice that went into preparing Solo to host the tournament – from moving its football team to a new home base to street sellers being unable to make a living after Manahan was closed for renovations – would all be in vain if Indonesia were to lose hosting rights over the Israel conundrum.
Yet critics of Israel’s participation continue to insist that this is a religious and constitutional matter. Indonesia, after all, lacks formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and the Muslim-majority country has always officially denounced the Jewish state’s occupation of Palestine.
Incidentally, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which Gibran, Koster, and Jokowi are all cadres, yesterday accused FIFA of double standards in that the world football governing body saw fit to exclude Russia for its invasion of Ukraine but not Israel despite its decades of brutality towards the Palestinian people.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, also a PDI-P cadre and widely tipped to be among the frontrunners in the 2024 presidential election, was another high-profile politician to publicly reject Israel’s participation in the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia.
With no compromise seemingly in sight, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that FIFA will soon move the tournament with just under two months to go, and slap Indonesia with sanctions and exclusion from world football.
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