Israeli Participation in FIFA U20 World Cup in Indonesia Becomes Political Football

Photo by Seb Daly – UEFA/UEFA via Sportsfile

We put the pieces together last June. That’s when Israel was participating in the 2022 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championships. For the top four, there was the bonus of a spot in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Israel finished second and this was incredible for a team who was only playing in this tournament for the second time. Punching their ticket to the 2023 U20 World Cup was the first time they’d qualified for a major FIFA international tournament since the 1976 Olympics.

Where was the tournament going to take place? Indonesia. Oh…

We thought the proverbial would hit the fan then and there – Did you hear? Israel has qualified for a sports tournament in Indonesia?!?!?

But no-one cared or seemed to care. In fact all of the noises coming out of Indonesia were positive – that Israel had qualified and Indonesia respects that.

Now that the draw for the tournament was meant to be this week, people have started to wake up.

There were protests in Indonesia about Israeli’s participation but have you seen the photos? They look highly dubious – that they asked a bunch of ladies to hold up some signs. It’s got rent a crowd stamped all over it. 

Then the Governor of Bali came out and said that he didn’t want Israel to be there.

You know how it is, when you make smoke with a smoke machine people think the house is burning down. It’s become a thing and now FIFA has delayed the draw.

It’s sad – for a number of reasons.

It’s sad because this is a fantastic opportunity to build bridges. This occasion could be used to thaw relations between the two countries but you know – never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

It’s also sad because the protestors who couldn’t care less about football are allowed to hijack the tournament for their own agenda. Now it’s become a circus and they don’t care about the players.

What’s going to happen next? Can it still take place in Indonesia?

If not, which country can host it on two month’s notice?

Can the tournament still take place as scheduled?

If FIFA forges ahead and plays the tournament in Indonesia, what will happen with the Israeli games? What was to be a once in a lifetime experience for these young athletes for all the right reasons, looms as being it for all the wrong ones.


David Wiseman

David Wiseman is the co-founder of Follow Team Israel, a Facebook page devoted to sharing the stories of Israeli sport to the world. It's the premier source of news about Israeli sport in English.

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