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March 23, 2023 1:35 pm

Protesters In Indonesia Demand Government to Ban Israel’s First-Ever Appearance in FIFA U-20 World Cup


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

More than 100 protesters took to the streets in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta earlier this week, demanding that the government not allow Israel’s youth soccer players to participate for the first time ever in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup that will be held in the country in May, the Associated Press reported.

Demonstrators stopped traffic on a major road in downtown Jakarta and were chanting “Allahu Akbar” as well as “Get out Israel from U-20 World Cup” while waving white flags that showcased the Islamic declaration of faith along with Indonesian and Palestinian flags. Several Muslim groups in the country have also called for Israeli soccer players to be banned from the tournament including Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, which has more than 60 million members, and the country’s top Muslim clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council.

One protester told the AP, “Israel’s long history of oppression against the Palestinian people motivates us to strongly reject Israel’s presence in any form in Indonesia.”

A total of 24 countries from five continents will be participating in the FIFA U-20 World Cup that will take place May 20-June 11 across six major cities in Indonesia, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel. This is the first year that Israel will compete and while Indonesia is automatically qualified for the tournament because it is the host country, all other countries qualify for the U-20 World Cup based on performance, the AP explained.

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England won the 2022 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the three semi-finalists — Israel, France and Italy — as well as the play-off winner Slovakia all qualified for the competition in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said FIFA has the final say on which teams participate in the tournament and that the government will not intervene. However, he clarified that the country’s solidarity with the Palestinians remain the same. He said at a news briefing that “despite Indonesia’s position as the U-20 host, our country’s consistent stance on Palestine will not waver, not even a little.” Indonesia’s Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali also previously said the government will oversee the safety of all teams competing in the World Cup.

Yunus Nusi, secretary general of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), reportedly said that sports must be separate from politics and suggested the possibly of Bali — the Muslim-majority country’s island where most people identify as Hindu — hosting all of Israel’s matches during the competition. But Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster rejected the idea earlier in March, citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as the reason.

In a letter sent to Amali, Koster wrote, “We, the Provincial Government of Bali, declare that we reject the participation of teams from the State of Israel to compete in the Province of Bali,” CNN Indonesia reported.

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