Indonesian players and fans were left dismayed on Thursday after the country was dropped as host of the under-20 soccer World Cup following outrage among politicians in the predominantly Muslim country about Israel’s participation.
International soccer’s governing body FIFA stripped Indonesia of hosting rights on Wednesday over what an Indonesian official said was a failure to honour its commitments to the tournament.
FIFA made the decision after Indonesia’s football federation (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because Bali’s governor refused to host Israel’s team.
World soccer’s ruling body said the decision had been taken following a meeting between its President Gianni Infantino and PSSI Chairman Erick Thohir.
One Indonesian player who was due to play in the tournament blamed politicians for the setback.
“We sacrificed our time, thoughts, sweat and even blood. But it suddenly failed due to your political reasons,” striker Rabbani Tasnim Siddiq said on Instagram.
Another player, Hokky Caraka, said he had lost the chance to fulfil a “life goal to make my parents proud, scoring goals in the U-20 World Cup”.
Indonesia does not have formal ties with Israel and has long been a supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Protesters marched in Jakarta this month demanding Israel not be allowed to participate in the tournament.
Reuters has contacted the Israeli FA for comment.
The head of an Indonesian fans’ association, Ignatius Indro, said PSSI and the government should ensure politics did not interfere in football. The loss of hosting rights was a “failure” for the Southeast Asian country, he said.
The sport has a massive following in Indonesia despite the lack of international success since qualifying for the 1938 World Cup as the Dutch East Indies.
PSSI said losing hosting rights would harm the national side’s chance of taking part in other FIFA tournaments, and the economic losses would amount to millions of dollars.
As hosts, Indonesia had automatically qualified for the tournament but FIFA’s decision means the players will no longer get to play, said the team’s assistant coach Nova Arianto.
“We have buried the dreams of our own children,” he said.
The tournament is still scheduled to be held from May 20 to June 11 in another location that is yet to be announced.