The U-20 World Cup in Indonesia came to a shaky start with world football governing body FIFA canceling the group drawing in Bali scheduled for March 31, after the resort island’s governor rejected Israel as the participating team.
The Indonesian Football Association, of PSSI, said on Sunday they are working on solutions to make sure that the country’s first-ever FIFA tournament will run on schedule and to keep the sport away from politics.
The association plans to meet with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo immediately to seek advice.
“We are appealing to all football lovers in Indonesia who care about our football to remain calm as we try to find solutions to this and speak with FIFA in the near future because we are worried that the country will be isolated from the world football ecosystem,” PSSI Executive Committee member Arya Sinulingga told a press conference in Jakarta.
“PSSI Chairman [Erick Thohir] will report to President Jokowi on these developments and seek the best solution to save Indonesian football,” he added.
The PSSI also will coordinate with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry as Israel’s qualification for the tournament unexpectedly became an issue.
President Jokowi received a visit by the Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia on Friday in an apparent attempt to counter domestic voices opposing Israel’s participation in the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup hosted by the Southeast Asian country.
Israel qualified for the Indonesian edition of the U-20 World Cup after competing in the European zone, which also sends England, France, Italy, and Slovakia to the final rounds.
On March 14, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster sent a letter to the sports minister to reject any Israel match on the island, one of six venues proposed for the Indonesian tournament.
The governor cited Israel’s policies towards Palestine which are “against Indonesian foreign policy”.
The governor, however, seemed forgetful that an Israeli parliament delegation visited the resort island last year to attend the 144th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference.
Only three months ago, an Israeli team competed at the Esport World Championship in Nusa Dua, Bali.
Several Israeli athletes have competed on Indonesian soil without major issues in the past.
In 2015, badminton player Misha Zilberman played at the world championship in Jakarta. Last September, Yuval Shemla participated in the World Sport Climbing competition in Jakarta.