Indonesia has been stripped of hosting the U-20 World Cup by FIFA

Indonesia has been stripped of hosting the U-20 World Cup by FIFA

Geneva (AFP) Indonesia was stripped of its bid to host the men’s Under-20 World Cup on Wednesday just eight weeks before the tournament kicks off amid political turmoil over Israel’s participation.

FIFA said Indonesia has been excluded from hosting the 24-team tournament that was due to start on May 20 “due to current circumstances,” without elaborating.

The decision came after a meeting in Doha between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Indonesian Football Association President Eric Thuhir.

Last June, Israel qualified for its first FIFA U-20 World Cup. But the country’s participation in Friday’s draw in Bali sparked political opposition this month.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country that has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, while publicly supporting the Palestinian cause.

Hosting Indonesia was thrown into doubt on Sunday when FIFA postponed the draw.

It was not clear who could now host the tournament, which was to be held at six stadiums in Indonesia. Reportedly, Argentina, who did not qualify for the tournament, are interested in hosting.

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the tournament dates currently remaining unchanged,” FIFA said.

The Indonesian Football Association could be subject to further discipline by FIFA. The ban could see Indonesia knocked out of the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, which begin in October.

FIFA appeared to deflect all blame on Wednesday from Thuhir, the former president of Italian club Inter Milan – the team Infantino supports – and former co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.

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The board said FIFA staff would continue to work in Indonesia in the coming months, “under the leadership of President Thuhir”.

Indonesia’s football and public authorities approved FIFA’s hosting requirements in 2019 ahead of its selection to host the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament to be postponed by two years.

But Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday evening That his administration objected to the participation of Israel. He told the citizens that the country agreed to host before it knew that Israel would qualify.

Israel qualified by reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship. The team lost to England in that final.

Israel plays in Europe as a member of UEFA after leaving the Asian Football Confederation in the 1970s for political and security reasons.

FIFA has described the Men’s U-20 World Cup as “the tournament for the stars of tomorrow”.

Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba are the previous winners of the tournament’s official player award, and Erling Haaland was the top scorer for the 2019 edition.

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