Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Indonesian social media was set ablaze early on Thursday after world soccer's governing body FIFA announced the removal of Indonesia as the host of the U-20 World Cup, with criticism and hate directed at politicians who propped up the resistance against the participation of the Israeli national team that eventually led to FIFA's decision.
Despite a last-ditch attempt by new Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) chief Erick Thohir to lobby FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Doha on Wednesday, the federation announced in an official statement hours later that it had revoked Indonesia's license to host the tournament, without any mention of the Israel boycott.
FIFA also noted "potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage", and that another meeting with the federation boss was scheduled in the coming days.
As Indonesian soccer fans feared a possible PSSI ban from FIFA, as well as the ensuing damage that the U-20 competition's cancellation might have on the country's credibility to host international sporting events, many have taken to social media to vent their frustrations toward politicians such as Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Bali Governor Wayan Koster from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Hokky Caraka, a professional soccer player and member of Indonesia's U-20 national team, was quick to point out the irony of an Instagram post by Ganjar on Wednesday, where he shared tips on how to be happy in old age.
"We know that you have a bright future, but what about us? We just wanted to take our career in a better direction, but our stepping stone to do that has been destroyed by you," Hokky posted on Ganjar's post. His comment has since been removed.
Rabbani Tasnim, another member of the Indonesian U-20 team, also took to the popular platform to criticize the PDI-P frontrunner for the 2024 presidential ticket. "Are you satisfied by destroying one of our biggest dreams?... [Our weeks of training] were made to be for naught just in a moment because of your political reasoning," he stated.
In support of the youth soccer team, many social media users jumped on the bandwagon to criticize Ganjar, and to a lesser extent, Koster.
Both figures were among those responsible for popularizing a movement to ban Israel from competing on Indonesian soil, by calling on the current administration to emulate the decision by Indonesia's first president Sukarno to ban Israel from the 1962 Asian Games.
The boycott movement only started gaining traction in recent weeks, despite an insistence by the Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Zuhair Al Shun that his country would have no qualms with Indonesia about hosting Israel.
Dino Patti Djalal, a former Indonesian ambassador and founder of the youth-focused Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI), took to Twitter in response to the controversy: "FIFA's removal of Indonesia as the host of the U-20 is a bitter pill in the history of Indonesian soccer."
"Millions of soccer fans were saddened and disappointed. I feel sorry for our national team, which has been desperately training for the U-20. Indonesia's name in international sports has been tarnished," he tweeted.
Dino took note of the many instances over the years where the presence of Israeli representatives was hardly debated, whether in the UCI Track Nations Cup cycling tournament in Jakarta in February, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Bali last year, or the 2007 United Nations Climate Conference (COP13), also in Bali.
"All these events took place without shifting Indonesia's firm and principled support for Palestinian independence. Our stance regarding the U-20 was massively politicized, even though the Palestinian government did not push back against Israel's participation at the U-20 in Indonesia," he stated further.
"Are we now more Palestinian than the Palestinians?"