Jannus TH Siahaan

Indonesia Finally Got The Lesson

The World Cup Under 20 (U-20) was finally canceled in Indonesia. Even though the Chairman of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), Erick Tohir, had lobbied and met directly with the FIFA chairman, Indonesia still failed to change the final decision of the world soccer organization’s or FIFA

Because not long after the meeting between the two parties, in its official release, FIFA stated that the World Cup Under 20 shoud unfortunately canceled in Indonesia.

FIFA does not mention in detail what problems prevented Indonesia from hosting the World Cup U-20. However, it cannot be denied that the polemic about the planned arrival of the Israeli national team to Indonesia as one of the participants in the event who passed became an introduction to Indonesian domestic politics just before the position of host Indonesia was suspended.

Some political elites, especially from the ruling party and Islamic parties, reject the presence of the Israeli national team in Indonesia. Starting with an official rejection letter sent by the Governor of Bali, the province where the World Cup U-20 drawing was originally planned to be held, continued with a statement of rejection from the Governor of Central Java, then from the political elite of the ruling party and Islamic parties and several other political elites.

They based their rejection of the Indonesian constitution regarding colonialism on the one hand and the precedent that had taken place in the early era of Indonesian independence, the era of President Soekarno where Indonesia’s membership had to be removed from the Olympic Organization for rejecting Israel, on the other hand.

Then, they also questioned FIFA which is considered discriminatory against Russia at the 2023 World Cup in Qatar, because Russia had invaded Ukraine.

However, not all parties agree with the narrative of rejection echoed by the political elites. The majority of people deeply regret this kind of political attitude, because they are considered to have mixed politics and sports in a haphazard manner.

The Jokowi administration is trying to take a position standing in line with the public voice. The government seems to realize that as the host, Indonesia is not the master of the event because Indonesia has to follow the rules of the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), which has the rights to the international event lika The World Cup U-20.

In other words, Indonesia’s position is only as a host whose duty is to properly organize World Football Under, including receiving and treating all U-20 World Football competition participants as guests.

This means that if the World Cup U-20 event is still held in Indonesia, like it or not, Israel as a country that has met the qualifications to participate in it will also come to compete.

And returning to the logic of who is the owner of the event earlier, Indonesia does not actually have the authority to ban or cancel any of the countries that have met the qualifications to come to Indonesia, including Israel.

Even the Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia could not say much. In his press conference in Jakarta, Wednesday (15/3/2023), Zuhair Al – Shun stated that he had no doubts about Indonesia’s commitment to support Palestine.

Along with that, he also emphasized that Israel’s participation in the tournament complies with the rules of the International Football Federation (FIFA) and does not necessarily diminish Indonesia’s support, as the host, for the supports of the Palestinian people.

The views of the Palestinian ambassador are very understandable. Indonesia and Palestine may still not recognize the state of Israel. But that does not cancel Israel’s membership in FIFA as the highest body of world football on the one hand and it cannot cancel Israel as a country that has qualified for the World Cup U-20 on the other hand.

That is, if Indonesia wants to continue to be the host, then the only way is to be a good host. Indonesia must try to put aside its domestic ego, by accepting all FIFA member guests who have met the requirements to compete in the World Cup U-20.

Unless, Indonesia chose the frontal path, namely withdrawing or canceling itself as a member of FIFA, as had happened during the Soekarno era when Indonesia left the World Olympic Committee, then chose to hold his own event called Ganefo as a rival on November 10, 1963.

Because of this, the government supports the PSSI Chairperson’s efforts to lobby with FIFA to prevent the cancellation of Indonesia’s host status. But it seems the effort is too late. FIFA already has its own decision.

As a result, when FIFA canceled the host status, Indonesia’s national public space took out its anger on the figures who had mixed up the World Cup U-20 event with political affairs. The social media accounts of the Governor of Central Java and the Governor of Bali were suddenly filled with angry comments from netizens.

The public is angry because the political attitude of prioritizing the desires and interests of groups that should be used is limited in the realm of practical politics, alias in the association between fellow politicians and groups of politicians, is actually being used for something far out of context.

This political attitude is then considered to have taken over the interests of the nation and state on the global stage. There are indeed many organizational sanctions that will await, but far more crucial than that is the reputational risk, aka the loss of the window for Indonesia to increase the pride of the country, the Republic of Indonesia, in the eyes of the world.

Even more than that, the failure to assume the status of “host” of the World Cup U-20 has not only cornered the nation’s reputation, but also crushed the dreams of Indonesia young people who really hope to prove themselves at this international class event.

Destroying the dreams of the younger generation is an act that is not commendable, especially if it is carried out by political elites who should be tasked with preparing a conducive and productive field for young people to face the future.

The Indonesian public through social media reminds the elites who feel they have contributed to this failure to immediately introspect and learn from today’s mistakes, so that they no longer risk the pride of the nation and state as well as the dreams of the younger generation for shallow “political gains”.

There are many recipes and political strategies that can be used to win in elections, but never put the nation’s pride and reputation on the one hand and the dreams of young generation on the other hand as a bet. It’s gona be too naive and totally inappropriate.

Even though to this day the political elites still persist with the original arguments, which were very anti-Semitic in tone, the public’s disappointment has been unstoppable. At least, Indonesia is now receiving the impact and getting valuable lessons from this failure

About the Author
Doctor of Sociology from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia. Defense and Environment Observer.