Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)iStock

Indonesia was stripped on Wednesday of hosting the men's Under-20 World Cup amid political turmoil regarding Israel's participation, The Associated Press reported.

FIFA said Indonesia was removed from staging the 24-team tournament scheduled to start on May 20 "due to the current circumstances", without specifying details.

The decision came after a meeting in Doha between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Indonesian soccer federation president Erick Thohir, according to AP.

Israel qualified last June for its first Under-20 World Cup. But the country's participation in Friday's scheduled draw in Bali provoked political opposition this month.

Doubt was cast on the draw event when the governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, called for a ban on Israel playing there because of Indonesia’s diplomatic support for the Palestinian Arab cause.

The six stadiums due to be used for the 52-game tournament include one in the Balinese city Gianyar.

Protests against Israel’s participation also were held in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last week by conservative Islamic groups.

Indonesia's hosting of the tournament was cast into doubt on Sunday when FIFA postponed the draw.

It is unclear who could now host the tournament, which was scheduled to be played in six stadiums in Indonesia. Argentina, which did not qualify for the tournament, is reportedly interested in hosting.

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

Israel and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, do not have diplomatic relations, though it was reported last year that Israel is in contacts to normalize relations with Indonesia.

Several years ago, the country’s President, Joko Widodo, called on Muslim nations to unite in fighting Israel.

In 2021, the country’s foreign minister expressed her country’s firm position in support of the Palestinian Authority in ending the “Israeli occupation of its land”.

Soccer and public authorities in Indonesia agreed to FIFA's hosting requirements in 2019 before being selected to stage the 2021 edition of the Under-20 World Cup, but Widodo said on Tuesday evening that his administration objected to Israel's participation. He told citizens that the country agreed to host before knowing Israel would qualify.

"I hereby guarantee Israel's participation has nothing to do with the consistency of our foreign policy position toward Palestine, because our support for Palestine is always strong and sturdy," he said in a livestreamed address, adding, "Do not mix matters of sports and politics."