In this Monday, March 20, 2023 photo, protesters with the Palestinian flag march in Jakarta, Indonesia. On Sunday, March 26, 2023, FIFA postpones the draw for the U-20 World Cup because Indonesia opposes the participation of Israel, a country with which it does not have diplomatic relations. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) — FIFA has postponed the U-20 World Cup draw because host nation Indonesia has a problem with Israel’s qualification, the Indonesian Soccer Federation said Sunday.
The world soccer governing body made the decision five days before the 24-nation draw took place in Bali for the tournament that will take place between May 20 and June 11 and in which Israel will debut.
Doubts about holding the lottery became apparent after Bali Governor Wayan Koster called for a veto on Israel because Indonesia diplomatically supports the Palestinian cause.
The six stadiums for the 52-game tournament, including one in the Bali city of Gianyar.
In addition, last week conservative Islamic groups held demonstrations in the capital Jakarta against Israel’s involvement.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country with 277 million people and has no formal relations with Israel.
But the Indonesian Federation and the country’s authorities agreed on the requirements to host the tournament in 2019 before they were chosen to host the U-20 World Cup in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the tournament to be postponed for two years.
Israel qualified for the first time in June after reaching the semi-finals of the European Under-19 Championship. The team lost the final to England.
FIFA declined to comment on Sunday about the draw, which is scheduled eight weeks before the tournament starts.
If Indonesia does not resolve the issue over the issue of Israel, the Federation risks being suspended by FIFA and could lead to it being eliminated from the Asian qualifier for the 2026 World Cup that begins in October.
The president of the Indonesian Football Federation is Erick Thohir, who was part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA. He was also president of Inter Milan.