IDNAround – Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) Chairman Erick Thohir departed to the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Tuesday evening to negotiate with the world football governing body as the country is on the brink of losing its rights to host the upcoming U-20 World Cup due to growing opposition to Israel’s participation.
The trip was made on the order of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who found himself in a very difficult position after his own party rejected any match involving Israel on Indonesian soil.
In his latest attempt to win back support for the country’s first-ever FIFA tournament, the president reiterated that politics and sports simply don’t mix.
He also pointed out that even the State of Palestine understands that FIFA has rules every member must obey, referring to his recent meeting with Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Zuhair Al-Shun.
“Israel’s participation in the tournament has nothing to do with the consistency of Indonesia’s foreign policy towards the State of Palestine because our support for the State of Palestine is always firm and strong. And with regard to the U-20 World Cup, we share the opinion by the Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia that FIFA has its own regulations every member must obey,” Jokowi said in a video message streamed via the YouTube account of the Presidential Secretariat.
“So please don’t mix sports and politics. FIFA has already learned about opposition to Israel’s participation in the U-20 World Cup, but the government and the PSSI are still making efforts to get the best solution,” he added.
His remarks came after FIFA abruptly canceled the group drawing event scheduled in Bali for this Friday. The cancellation followed a statement by Bali Governor I Wayan Koster who rejected any Israel match to be held on the resort island.
The governor and fellow politicians of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have voiced opposition to the tournament if Israel is allowed to play.
Jokowi reminded the public that Indonesia has gone through a tough bidding process to become the host of the prestigious tournament, winning over Peru and Brazil in the final stage.
“All elements in the country have worked hard to make sure that Indonesia can become the host of the U-20 World Cup and in October 2019 we finally won the FIFA appointment,” Jokowi said.
“This is a big honor to Indonesia as we won the trust to host the U-20 World Cup, to manage a sporting event which has the biggest number of fans in the world.”
‘We Can’t Please Every Body’
Speaking separately prior to his Zurich flight, Erick said he was hoping that the meeting with FIFA executives will produce the best solution.
“I’m departing to the FIFA headquarters tonight to discuss the best [solution] although we know the decision won’t be able to please all of us,” Erick told reporters in Jakarta.
“But at least we must find a solution and as a fan of the sport I know that it unites people but sometimes it’s used as political tools,” he added.
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