Tunggul Wirajuda, Jakarta – Indonesia's licensed vendor for FIFA U-20 World Cup merchandise is scrambling to sell off its wares after the country lost its license to host the tournament in an act of political self-sabotage.
The souvenirs were laid out neatly on a table at the Juaraga activewear store in Jakarta's FX Sudirman mall, arranged symmetrically to catch the customer's eye. Among them was a neat black backpack. Red, white and other colors swirled into the shape of a trophy with the words "FIFA" at its base, while the words "U-20 World Cup, Indonesia 2023" rounded out the bag, labeled the Backpack Champion. While the motif was eye-catching, they were not the only attention-grabbing items.
"I think the yellow bucket hat is a striking, reversible item. When one reverses the headgear, it turns into a dazzling array of colors," said a visitor named Kevin on April 11 of the item sold as the Bucket Hat Ray. "The colorful melange is a great contrast to the hat's monochromatic yellow shell."
The Backpack Champion and Bucket Hat Ray are among the items that make up Juaraga's collection for the ill-fated 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Scheduled to be held in Indonesia, FIFA stripped the country of its right to host the tournament after the powerful Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) objected to Israel's participation in the championship at the end of March. The cancellation occurred less than two months before Indonesia was to host the tournament.
"The cancellation [of the U-20 World Cup] shocked us, as it came out of the blue and was a knockout blow similar to losing a soccer match in injury time," Juaraga owner Mochtar Sarman told The Jakarta Post on April 11. "As an official FIFA partner, they licensed us to sell U-20 World Cup merchandise. We started to sell the items last March after we ordered them from 18 small, micro and medium enterprises [SMSEs] in Tangerang, Bandung, Semarang and Surakarta at the end of 2022."
He added that Juaraga had ordered more than 500,000 pieces of merchandise for the U-20 World Cup, 85 to 90 percent of which had been manufactured before the tournament was supposed to kick off, in May of last year. These included the jerseys of the national squad; the Heritage, a black unisex jacket identified by the staff as a "bestselling item and customer favorite"; and the tournament mascot, Bacuya, in various iterations. A colorfully horned rhino sporting the colors of the Indonesian national team, Bacuya, took on the form of fridge magnets, keychains, stuffed animals and other items.
Mochtar pointed out that Juaraga had sold its merchandise on online marketplaces like Shopee and Tokopedia, at more than 12,000 Alfa Mart outlets and in their official store before the curtain abruptly fell on Indonesia's chances to host the U-20 World Cup.
"[Juaraga] was about to finalize deals to sell the U-20 World Cup merchandise in the airports of the host cities and at a pop-up store at the Sarinah shopping mall before the tournament's cancellation forced these projects down the drain. We estimated that the MSMEs producing them have lost about Rp 30 billion [US$2.03 billion]," Mochtar said, adding that the severe blow to the morale of the MSMEs was less tangible.
"The MSMEs lost the opportunity to prove themselves at a global event that was hard to come by and sell their goods to an international market. They also lost the chance to show their skills in producing world-quality products and the quality control that goes with it, as well as what they learned about international property rights," he said. "But we will still help these businesses by selling their wares from the U-20 World Cup and other events that Indonesia still hosts, such as the MotoGP and Formula E."
Kevin commended the MSMEs' efforts and believed in helping them by buying their U-20 World Cup wares, though he saw them as bitter mementos.
"I feel for the stakeholders in the U-20 World Cup, among them the MSMEs, the Garuda [national team], as well as referees and other officials," he said. "Looking at the merchandise is also surreal, as it evokes a never-mentioned tournament."