03/26 10:44 CDT Indonesia's issues with Israel delay FIFA U20 World Cup draw
Indonesia's issues with Israel delay FIFA U20 World Cup draw
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer
GENEVA (AP) --- FIFA postponed the men's Under-20 World Cup finals draw because
of host nation Indonesia's issues with Israel's qualification, the Indonesian
soccer federation said Sunday.
The decision was announced five days before FIFA was due to make the 24-nation
draw Friday on the island of Bali for the May 20-June 11 tournament, that
includes debutant Israel.
Doubt was cast on the draw event last week when the governor of Bali, Wayan
Koster, called for a ban on Israel playing there because of Indonesia's
diplomatic support for the Palestinian 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 is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation with about 277
million people and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
However, Indonesian soccer and public authorities agreed to FIFA's hosting
requirements in 2019 before being selected to host the 2021 edition of the
Under-20 World Cup. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the tournament to be postponed
for two years.
Israel qualified last June for its first ever Under-20 World Cup when it
reached the semifinals of the Under-19 European Championship. The team went on
to lose the final to England.
FIFA declined to comment Sunday on the draw being postponed just eight weeks
before the opening game.
If Indonesia fails to resolve its hosting issues over Israel, the national
soccer federation risks being suspended by FIFA. That sanction can remove
Indonesia from Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup that starts in October.
The Indonesia soccer federation president is Erick Thohir, a former co-owner of
the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. He is also a former president of Inter Milan, the
storied Italian soccer club whose fans include FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Thohir and Infantino are also both members of the International Olympic
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