The 2021 edition of the FIFA U20 World Cup is finally set to be held in May of 2023. However, it is not just the year that has changed. Indonesia was set to host the marquee event in what would have been a landmark moment for the Asian country. However, due to political controversy, FIFA has now announced that Argentina will be the new host of the tournament in a big blow to Indonesia’s sporting aspirations.
So, why did FIFA decide to take this drastic step, and what has been the reaction in Indonesia? We take a look at the timeline of events
Indonesia- The original hosts
Indonesia was announced as the winning bid for hosting rights of the U20 World Cup on October 24, 2019. Their bid beat the competition from five other bidders in an intense race to host the tournament.
There was widespread euphoria in the country at such a massive coup. Indonesia is trying to establish itself as a footballing force. The hosts of the tournament gain automatic entry into the event. Therefore, playing against the best young players from around the world would have been a relishing experience for Indonesia’s burgeoning football-fanatic population.
However, this dream has been shattered due to political forces at play.
Why did FIFA remove Indonesia as the host?
Problems started when there was widespread opposition in Indonesia over the participation of Israel in the tournament.
Indonesia, a primarily Muslim-majority country, took exception to Israel’s participation due to the country’s policy towards Palestine. Indonesia has adopted a pro-Palestine stance publicly.
Israel, meanwhile, has faced opposition due to their excessive force in dealing with Palestine. Notably, Indonesia has non-existent diplomatic ties with Israel. Therefore, the threat to Israel’s players loomed large if the tournament was to be held in Indonesia.
Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster even sent a letter to Indonesia’s Sports Ministry asking them to ban Israel from participating in the tournament.
President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo urged the people to look at the bigger picture, citing the long and arduous bidding process which led the country to win such a hosting honour. However, amid increasingly ferocious public protests, FIFA was forced to step in the take hosting rights away from Indonesia.
Fallout from the incident
The decision from FIFA was met with widespread anger and disappointment by the Indonesian people. The event could have been transformative for the footballing landscape of the country.
The public was excited at the prospect of showing their passion for the game. Furthermore, FIFA didn’t stop at just stripping away Indonesia’s hosting rights. The governing body also imposed a provisional restriction on the use of the FIFA Forward Development Fund for Indonesia.
It is a fund provided by FIFA to its member associations to improve the standard of the game in the country.
From being all set to host a marquee FIFA tournament, Indonesia now finds itself in a situation where it is facing a resource crunch, as well as being the outsider in a showpiece event.
Peru, Argentina and Qatar quickly made their interests known in becoming the new hosts. Argentinas submitted the first official bid for the same on March 30, 2023.
The proactiveness was rewarded as Argentina was awarded the hosting rights of the tournament on April 17, 2023, via a press conference including all the relevant dignitaries.
In a cruel twist of fate for Indonesia, Argentina had failed to qualify for the tournament but will now take part due to being hosts. So, not only has Argentina taken Indonesia’s hosting rights, but they have also taken Indonesia’s place in the tournament.