'Shall We Ask Israel to Participate by Zoom?': Saga in Indonesia's U-20 World Cup – Jakarta Globe
Jakarta. Political parties, most notably the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, have put the country’s first-ever FIFA tournament in limbo after they rejected any match involving Israel to be held on Indonesian soil, a football activist said on Monday evening.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is slated to kick off in May but after years of preparations host country Indonesia suddenly found itself in a situation that may cause the dream tournament to slip out of its grasp after Israel qualified for the final rounds.
Indonesia is a strong supporter of the establishment of a sovereign state of Palestine but doesn’t have formal diplomatic ties with Israel.
Two PDI-P governors have rejected the presence of the Israeli football team in their respective jurisdictions, prompting world football governing body FIFA to cancel the group drawing event scheduled for March 31 in Bali.
For Akmal Marhali, the chairman of the activist group Save Our Soccer, the latest development indicates the imminent cancellation of the entire tournament in Indonesia.
“It’s very unlikely that of 24 participating teams, only 23 are allowed to play,” Akmal said in a talk show at news broadcaster BTV.
“Shall we ask Israel to participate via a Zoom conference?” he said in sarcasm.
Akmal blamed political parties, the PDI-P in particular, for the unnecessary noise that came at the final stage of the preparation.
“If this is all because of a move by public organizations, we still can talk with them. But the problem is that we are dealing with political parties. It’s an even bigger problem because the party that has the loudest voice is the one that supports the government,” he said.
“The fact is that all the talks have come from politicians, like Bali Governor I Wayan Koster who is a PDI-P member, and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, a [potential] presidential candidate also from the PDI-P,” he added.
The political reality came as President Joko Widodo’s biggest headache because he too is a PDI-P man, Akmal added.
The president has made efforts to soften the opposing voices including by inviting the Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia to convince the public that despite Israel’s participation in the tournament, Indonesia’s foreign policy towards Palestine will remain unchanged.
Akmal also reminded about FIFA’s firm stance against mixing football with politics as mentioned in the Laws of the Game, Law 04 Section 5 which states that equipment worn by players “must not have any political, religious or personal slogans”.
FIFA has no business in Indonesia’s foreign policy towards Israel or any national regulation that bans Indonesians from competing with Israeli athletes, he said.
“FIFA’s only business is football. In any FIFA tournament, all [qualified] teams must be allowed to play their matches without exception regardless of the national politics,” he said.
Insisting on refusing Israel to play in Indonesia will risk Indonesia losing its rights to host the tournament “and we are moving towards that path”, he added.
“Our politicians simply don’t understand this,” Akmal said.