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‘Buried dreams’: Players, fans dismayed after Indonesia loses U-20 hosting rights

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A man walks past FIFA U-20 World Cup banners outside Indonesia’s football federation (PSSI) office in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesian players and fans were left dismayed on Thursday after the country was dropped as host of the under-20 soccer World Cup following outrage among politicians in the predominantly Muslim country about Israel’s participation.

International soccer’s governing body FIFA stripped Indonesia of hosting rights on Wednesday over what an Indonesian official said was a failure to honour its commitments to the tournament.

FIFA made the decision after Indonesia’s football federation (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because Bali’s governor refused to host Israel’s team.

World soccer’s ruling body said the decision had been taken following a meeting between its President Gianni Infantino and PSSI Chairman Erick Thohir.

One Indonesian player who was due to play in the tournament blamed politicians for the setback.

“We sacrificed our time, thoughts, sweat and even blood. But it suddenly failed due to your political reasons,” striker Rabbani Tasnim Siddiq said on Instagram.

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Another player, Hokky Caraka, said he had lost the chance to fulfil a “life goal to make my parents proud, scoring goals in the U-20 World Cup”.

Indonesia does not have formal ties with Israel and has long been a supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters marched in Jakarta this month demanding Israel not be allowed to participate in the tournament.

Reuters has contacted the Israeli FA for comment.

The head of an Indonesian fans’ association, Ignatius Indro, said PSSI and the government should ensure politics did not interfere in football. The loss of hosting rights was a “failure” for the Southeast Asian country, he said.

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The sport has a massive following in Indonesia despite the lack of international success since qualifying for the 1938 World Cup as the Dutch East Indies.

PSSI said losing hosting rights would harm the national side’s chance of taking part in other FIFA tournaments, and the economic losses would amount to millions of dollars.

As hosts, Indonesia had automatically qualified for the tournament but FIFA’s decision means the players will no longer get to play, said the team’s assistant coach Nova Arianto.

“We have buried the dreams of our own children,” he said.

The tournament is still scheduled to be held from May 20 to June 11 in another location that is yet to be announced.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Governing Bodies

Tinubu backs Amaju’s FIFA Council re-election bid

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick has secured the backing of Nigeria’s President,  Bola Tinubu in his bid to get another term in office as one of Africa’s representatives in FIFA Council.

The 37-member FIFA  Council is the main decision making body of the organisation in the intervals of FIFA Congress. 

Pinnick is the third Nigerian to ever sit in the FIFA Council after Oyo Orok Oyo (1980-1988) and Dr. Amos Adamu (2006-2010).

Pinnick was elected into the council on 12 March 2021. He is bidding for re-election in 2025 when the current term lapses.

According to a media release from the State House and signed by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity,

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President Bola Tinubu expresses strong support for Nigeria’s bid for re-election into the FIFA Council

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Governing Bodies

Save Our Soccer, African Sports Journalists plead with Motsepe

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

An SOS has been sent by the International Sports Press – Africa (AIPS -Africa) to the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Dr. Patrice Motsepe to save the soul of African soccer.

 The sports writers’ body has written an open letter to Motsepe on the need to do more to save African football.

The letter, written Monday in Dakar, is premised on the recurring scheduling problems that “have made CAF a victim of collateral damage from the “war” between UEFA and FIFA.”

Continuing in the letter signed by AIPS-Africa President, Abdoulaye Thiam, the sports writers’ body noted that UEFA contributed to overloading of the international calendar with the creation of the Nations League, which is played on FIFA dates

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Owing to the congested international calendar, football competitions in Africa have been major victims.

AIPS wrote: …”the stuttering and uncertainties surrounding the programming of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) leave many wondering about the future of our continent’s most prestigious competition, which is struggling to find a place in the international calendar.

“Added to this, the external influences and the overload of the international calendar, modelled on the European interests, increases the scepticism surrounding the survival of CAF’s most lucrative and economically viable tournament.

“As a result, therefore, it is rare, if not impossible, for an African team to find a European team to spar with, except when they share the same group in a World Cup draw every four years.     

“As for FIFA, in addition to the Arab World Cup, it has also created the Club World Cup. Worse still, it decided to stage the latter competition from June 15 to July 13, 2025, a period initially chosen by Morocco to host the AFCON 2025. In fact, Cairo’s dependence on Zurich enabled FIFA’s latest competition to happily shake up the 67-year-old African Cup of Nations.”

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Also affected by the global football calendar are the scheduling of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and African Women’s Champions League.

The journalists recalled that the changing of AFCON tournaments from the even-ending years to the odd  was to avert situations of clashing with World Cup years and to avert exhaustion on players.

The situation is such that scheduling of tournaments in Africa is now determined by compromise reached with UEFA and FIFA.

AIPS averred that “it is important to deconstruct the image of Africa as a prominent stakeholder in the global game with huge voice of 54 member associations and votes being presented as an electoral cattle-tank, to be adequately given their fair share during debates and dialogues with FIFA, by offering constructive solutions with a view to accelerating a reform of the international calendar.

“It is therefore expected from CAF leaders to ensure respect for African Football which is full of great administrators and players alike…Mr. President (Motsepe), you claim to be a disciple of Nelson Mandela and a well respectable man. A man of principles. So do kindly refuse and remain our inspiration than anything else.”  

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Governing Bodies

Breaking! CAF’s axe falls on Eto’o

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Confederation of African Football (CAF) has imposed a fine of $200 thousand on Samuel Eto’o Fils, a former international footballer and President of Fédération Camerounaise de Football (‘’FECAFOOT’’).

  The fine is imposed on the FECAFOOT president for violating the principles of ethics, integrity and sportsmanship as provided in Article 2  paragraph 3 of the CAF Statutes.

He is found to have violated the said article by signing a Brand Ambassador contract with the company 1XBET in exchange for remuneration.

 He however escape sanction in a bigger allegation of match fixing and manipulation.

Eto’o faced charges of alleged manipulation of football matches and violating the principles of ethics and integrity.

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The Disciplinary Board ruled that there was insufficient proof to find him and Valentin Nkwain guilty of match manipulation.

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