Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, affirmed that Israel’s participation in the Under-20 World Cup, hosted by Indonesia, would not alter the country’s foreign policy, and emphasized that sports and politics should remain separate.
He confirmed that he had dispatched Erick Thohir, a cabinet minister and former Inter Milan chairman who leads the national football association, to speak with FIFA following opposition to Israel’s participation in the tournament.
Jokowi maintained Indonesia’s support for Palestine and a two-state solution, and stated that Israel’s inclusion had been confirmed well after Indonesia was granted hosting rights. The tournament draw was cancelled after protests within Indonesia, where most citizens practice a moderate version of Islam, and there are rising levels of religious conservatism.
The governor of Bali, which was to host the tournament, had urged the Ministry of Youth and Sports to adopt a policy forbidding Israel from competing. Although the FIFA spokesperson stated that the tournament venues had been inspected, there was no comment on whether the tournament would proceed or when a new draw might be held.
Indonesia’s acting sports minister, Muhadjir Effendy, stressed the importance of hosting the tournament and finding a solution.