Bali Legislative Council slams governor’s rejection of Israel at the FIFA U-20 World Cup

Last week, Bali Governor Wayan Koster announced that his administration rejected the idea of the island hosting the Israeli youth football team at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup from May to June, which Indonesia is set to host. With one possible fallout from his statement being Indonesia losing hosting rights, people on the island are saying that they regret Koster’s stance on the matter.

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IGK Kresna Budi, the Head of Commission II of the Bali’s Legislative Council (DPRD) overseeing tourism matters, said yesterday that all guests should be welcomed on the island, including the Israeli football team. 

“Our opinion as public representatives, as a host, we will respect any guests visiting Bali,” he said. 

Indonesia is in an awkward situation as it must find a way to allow Israel’s youth team (who qualified last June) to take part in the competition despite the lack of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

One of the earlier proposals was for Bali, the Muslim-majority country’s Hindu-majority-island, to host all of Israel’s matches during the competition. Gianyar’s I Wayan Dipta Stadium is one of the six venues that has been chosen to host the major tournament.

Yet Indonesia’s chances of hosting the U-20 World Cup hangs in the balance, after FIFA canceled the draw for the tournament, which was supposed to take place in Bali on March 31, following Koster’s statement as well as similar sentiments made by other high-profile Indonesian politicians.

Kresna, a member of the Golkar Party, said that the event could serve as a way to promote Bali on an international scale, adding that he hopes that the Island of Gods could still host the prestigious event. 

Separately, the Head of the Bali Chapter of Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), Ketut Suardana, said that the rejection of the Israeli team’s participation is purely political and that he hopes the government could put aside their interests.

“Football represents sport tourism that we can sell to other countries and our own country,” he said, adding that the rejections toward Israel could also taint the island’s reputation as a tolerant place.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting at the House of Representatives (DPR) in Jakarta yesterday, Koster briefly talked about the decision.

“It’s not only my stance, but the government’s also,” he said.

“As for solutions, ask the ones with authority. Enough.”

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