Indonesia was stripped of a world championship soccer tournament on Wednesday amid protests over the participation of Israel’s team.
Indonesia had been scheduled to host the Under-20 World Cup, an event for the best young players in the world, from May 20th to June 11th. Israel has qualified for the tournament for the first time, but that result proved to be fraught in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Some government officials and protesters had called on the Israeli team to be excluded, leading to the cancellation of the tournament’s draw, which had been set for Friday. On Monday, conservative Muslim protesters marched in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, carrying signs and chanting slogans objecting to Israel’s presence in the event.
After a meeting between the leaders of soccer’s global governing body, Fifa, and the Indonesian soccer federation on Wednesday in Qatar failed to resolve the dispute, Fifa said in a statement that Indonesia would not host the event “due to the current circumstances.”
Fifa said the dates of the tournament would remain unchanged and that it would announce a new host “as soon as possible.” Indonesia could face further penalties, including a possible ban from qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.
Twenty-four countries are set to participate in the under-20 championship, including the United States. The tournament is an important stepping stone for stars of the future; Lionel Messi was named the most valuable player of the 2005 event, matching the 1979 award won by Diego Maradona.
The tournament had been planned for six stadiums in Indonesia, and Israel was expected to play in Bali. But Bali’s governor, Wayan Koster, wrote to the nation’s sports ministry asking it to bar Israel from playing in his region.
That led to the postponement of the tournament’s draw, which had been scheduled to be held in Bali.
The under-20 championships, last held in 2019, is normally played every two years. But the 2021 event – also set to be held in Indonesia – was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled for this year. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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