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Indonesia lose World Cup rights over Israel ban

Indonesia has lost the right to host this year’s men’s U-20 soccer World Cup.

The decision to stop the country staging the May 20-June 11 tournament was taken after the Indonesian football federation (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because the governor of the largely Hindu island of Bali had refused to host Israel’s team.

“FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023,” the world governing body said in a statement on Wednesday.

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged. Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage.”

World soccer’s ruling body added the decision had been taken following a meeting between its president, Gianni Infantino, and PSSI chairman Erick Thohir.

“Indonesia is a FIFA member, so for any international soccer matters, we have to abide by the rules,” Mr Thohir said in a statement on PSSI’s website.

The loss of hosting rights will be a big setback in Indonesia, where football has a massive following.

When asked why FIFA had decided to remove Indonesia as hosts, deputy PSSI chief and former sports minister Zainudin Amali told KompasTV: “FIFA decided Indonesia didn’t follow through with its earlier commitments.”

Mr Zainudin said he hoped to avoid sanctions, but feared another FIFA ban.

“That we were removed from hosting rights is already tough for us,” he said.

Protesters marched in the capital Jakarta earlier in March, waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags and demanding Israel be banned from playing.

Indonesia’s population is predominantly Muslim. Most Indonesian Muslims practise a moderate version of Islam, but there has been a rise in religious conservatism in recent years that has crept into politics.

The PSSI said this week losing hosting rights would harm Indonesian football teams’ chances of taking part in other FIFA tournaments, while the economic losses would amount to “trillions of rupiah”.

-AAP

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