Rejects Israel Football Team to Enter Indonesia


By : Ali Farkhan Tsani, Journalist of MINA News Agency

In an article entitled The Evolution and Impact of the Sporting Boycott of Israel (2022), Dr. Ihab Maharmeh examines the evolutionary impact of the sports boycott on Israel from its inception and its impact on Israel’s apartheid colonial system.

The researcher at The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies Doha writes that there has been a widespread development of boycotts in international sports tournaments over the past ten years.

The outbreak of the Arab Revolution (Arab Spring) in late 2010, gave additional impetus to young Arabs to boycott Israel in the world of sport.

Tyrannical and autocratic changes, giving Arab athletes the opportunity to turn international sports tournaments into spaces for political action.

Dr. Ihab Marhameh believes that the sports boycott against Israel that has emerged in the last decade is a political tool for athletes.

He considered that the impact of the boycott campaign in international sports tournaments, lowered Israel’s international reputation, its sports brand, and its diplomatic efforts were related to its growing sports marketing.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud, Editor of the Palestine Chronicle, who is also a researcher at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) in his article entitled We must boycott Israeli sports as we did with Apartheid South Africa (2019), stated that the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) is struggling  to survive.

The combined US-Israeli pressure on Palestinian organizations that provide assistance and support to the Palestinian people is also felt in the field of sports.

The PFA budget has been cut by more than half, and the football season has been disrupted. In fact, football in Palestine is not just a sports game. Yet it provides respite, continuity, hope, and unity.

The Palestinian national team is also the most besieged football team in the world today.

“Due to Israeli restrictions, the Palestinian national team have been banned from playing their home games in Palestinian stadiums for many years. Palestine is forced to host in nearby Arab countries,” wrote Hazem Balousha on Arab News.

This means, all Palestinian football training camps must be held outside Palestine. Often squads from the Gaza Strip are unable to join their counterparts in the West Bank. Meanwhile, no foreign trainers are allowed to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Sports is Sports?

“Sports is sports, politics is politics”. This is the jargon used by the Israeli occupation to encourage its athletes to take part in various international tournaments.

Is sport really not related to politics?  According to the Wikipedia summary, politics and sports or sports diplomacy describes the use of sport as a means to influence diplomatic, social, and political relations.

Sports diplomacy can transcend cultural differences and bring people together. In fact, nationalistic spirit is associated with the victory or defeat of sports on the field.  So, obviously there is a connection.

In fact, the World Olympics event is the greatest political example of the use of sport for diplomatic means.

In the apartheid case in South Africa, for example, sports were used to isolate South Africa, and to carry out a major overhaul in the country’s socio-political structure.

FIFA then suspended the membership of the South African Football Association in 1961.

In fact, in 1968, the UN General Assembly made a decision, carrying out a cultural and sporting boycott of South Africa, because it had practiced apartheid. So that artists, actors, sportsmen, and others cannot perform in South Africa, which previously participated in the Olympics in 1964.

He said “Sports is sports, politics is politics”. In fact? The decision of the world sports body to isolate South Africa in sports tournaments is quite effective in changing political policies in this black continent country.

In addition, there are also many athletes who seek and obtain political positions, after being recognized through their sporting achievements.

The world notes, for example, how the legend of world football from Brazil, Pele, was appointed directly by the President of Brazil as extraordinary sports minister in 1995.

Footballer George Weah, who was once the world’s top player, star of AC Milan, Italy, was elected by the people to become President of Liberia in 2018.

There is another name, namely Imran Khan, the captain of the Pakistan national team when they won the cricket World Cup in 1992. Cricket is the leading sport in Pakistan. He was elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan, 2018-2022 period. More or less, he is known through his sporting achievements.

No less famous, world boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines. He was then active in politics, becoming a member of Congress in 2013 and a member of the Senate in 2016.

Now, what if Russia attacks Ukraine for its political ambitions, not sporting ambitions. In fact, Russia was boycotted by European countries in sports. UEFA and FIFA also boycotted Russia in all football matches.

UEFA and FIFA punished Russia and its football clubs. Including Spartak Moskva, which was banned from participating in the Champions League competition.

He said “Sports is sports, politics is politics”. In fact? The decision of the sports body remains political in nature, and cannot be separated from political policy.

However, what about Israel now? UEFA and FIFA use a double standard, leaving Israel free to take part in matches anytime, anywhere and at any level.

Unlike when it was applied to South Africa. Even though Israel’s crimes were more than apartheid in South Africa, they were even worse than Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

It seems that FIFA is now turning a blind eye to the increasingly brutal violations of the Israeli occupation in Palestine. Palestine is suffering more and more, while Israel continues to promote itself as a member of FIFA in the name of sport.

In fact, the current Israeli occupation is not only practicing its apartheid and racist regime in Palestine. However, he has also repeatedly committed all crimes against humanity, ranging from kidnappings without cause, imprisonment without trial, looting, raids, and deportations. Including the demolition of residents’ houses, the burning of olive fields, and the rape of women.

Not to mention the killing of civilians, especially children and the elderly, various types of restrictions up to land, sea and air blockades against around 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Boycott Israeli Football

Then, what about the boycott against Israel? The sports boycott against Israeli athletes certainly does not only involve the government, public officials, politicians, activists, intellectuals and clerics. But also athletes and even ordinary people around the world.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement said the boycott campaign was carried out to spread awareness of Israeli racism and violations of Palestinian human rights throughout the worldwide football community.

In addition, boycotting Israeli sports, especially football, is also a powerful weapon without chemical ammunition, to suppress Israel’s military occupation, apartheid and racism.

A soccer boycott was carried out by the star-studded Argentina national team, including Lionel Messi, who canceled a trial against the Israeli national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

According to striker Gonzalo Higuain at the time, the decision was taken taking into account the political situation in the occupied territories, and taking into account the outrage of the football association and Palestinians.

“The Argentine Football Association made the right decision,” said Higuain.

The Palestinians also celebrated the cancellation of the match. The Palestinians and the country’s football authorities thanked Messi and company for the boycott cancellation.

The chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Djibril Rajoub said human, moral and sporting values ​​had triumphed.

Many individual players also took steps to withdraw, aka boycotts against Israeli athletes, as a form of support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to be free from colonialism. For example, the action of the Kuwaiti athlete, Osama Burahma, who withdrew from the December 2022 Asia Triathlon West Asian Championships, which was held in Bahrain, due to the participation of Israeli players.

Another athlete, Lebanese tennis player Mohamed Ataya, withdrew from the Cyprus International Championships, having refused to face an Israeli opponent, in November 2022.

There is also a teenage chess player from Mauritania, Abdel Rahim Al-Talib Muhammad (14 years), who withdrew from the 2021 Junior World Cup, because the draw pitted him against an Israeli player.

Reject the Israeli National Team

Now, in 2023, the colonial regime is sending its national football team to Indonesia to take part in the U-20 World Cup, from 20 May to 11 June 2023, based on the schedule determined by FIFA.

The general chairman of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) Erick Thohir stated that his party provided security guarantees for the Israel National Team who will come to Indonesia for the U-20 World Cup.

He also said that the state guarantees the arrival of anyone who plays in Indonesia, according to the contract as the host, said Erick at the State Palace, Jakarta, Thursday, March 2, 2023.

This reason may be understandable, because Indonesia is ready to be the host with all the consequences. Including providing protection for all participants in the competition. However, does Indonesia not pay attention to and consider the factors of the ongoing occupation and crimes against humanity committed by Israel?

Was it also not considered, the policy of accepting Israeli athletes could be seen as the first step towards Indonesia-Israel diplomatic normalization?

In fact, if we look at the attitude of the founding fathers of the Indonesian nation, President Soekarno, who was firm, forbade the Indonesian national team from competing against Israel.  This happened in the 1958 World Cup Qualification.

In an article entitled The Story of President Soekarno Banning the Indonesian National Team from Matching Against Israel, but Now? (Bolatimes, Tuesday, 28 June 2022), reveals how President Soekarno once took a very firm stance towards the Israeli National Team.

That moment occurred when the Indonesian national team Anton Pogacnik was joined in the same group with Israel, Sudan and Egypt.

If they won this round, the Indonesian national team had a great chance of advancing to the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden. However, the Indonesian national team chose to refuse to compete or boycott against the Israeli national team. The ticket to qualify for the 1958 World Cup was gone. The boycott decision was based on direct orders from President Ir. Soekarno.

Indonesia at that time refused to play in Jakarta or in Tel Aviv. Indonesia only wants to play on a neutral venue, and without the national anthem. However, Israel and FIFA rejected Indonesia’s proposal.

Sudan and Egypt, for the sake of solidarity with Palestine, at that time also carried out the same action, boycotting the Israeli national team. Israel also won the group without even playing once on the field. However, Israel still failed to advance to the 1958 World Cup finals, because according to FIFA Rules, the requirement for a team to qualify for the World Cup was to take part in at least one qualifying match.

In the end, FIFA decided that Israel must compete for a ticket to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, facing a team that did not qualify for the European zone, but had the highest score in the qualifying phase, namely the Wales national team.

The Israel vs Wales duel was held in two legs, on 15 January 1958 in Tel Aviv and 5 February 1958 in Cardiff. Wales successfully won the two matches with an aggregate score of 2-0, thus qualifying for the last 16 of the 1958 World Cup.

Next, Bung Karno also strictly prohibited the arrival of one of the participating countries, the Israel National Team, at the Asian Games, the IV Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962.

The Indonesian government at that time refused to issue visas for the Israeli and Taiwanese delegations. There was also strong pressure from Arab countries and the People’s Republic of China at that time. Indonesia’s policy of boycotting this Israeli athlete is considered to have violated Olympic rules.

Indonesia was also forced to face the consequences of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC also withdrew as protector of the Asian Games IV at that time.

The IOC even banned its flag from being raised in Jakarta. Ultimately, Indonesia left the IOC. Indonesia was also sanctioned in the form of an administrative fine of 5,000 Swiss francs (to convert to around Rp. 81.5 million) for violating Article 6 of the FIFA Regulations. This article relates to penalties for countries that resign when they have played a World Cup Qualification match.

A year later, Indonesia held a rival championship, the Games of the New Emerging Forces (Ganefo) in Jakarta. This sporting event was a success, and was attended by 48 countries in the world, without Israel.

Thus, indeed President Soekarno was the most assertive in defending the struggle of oppressed nations, including in defending and supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people and nation.

In Lutan and Huebner’s study, through a geopolitical approach, the function of the 1962 Asian Games was President Soekarno’s weapon to bring Indonesia to the regional and world political map. (Muhammad Yuanda Zara, Faculty of Social Sciences, Yogyakarta State University, Patravidya, Vol. 19, No. 2, August 2018).

What was done by the first President of the Republic of Indonesia, Bung Karno, became a long history of Indonesia’s support for Palestine, which must be continued by the next generation.

This was stated by a member of Commission II of the Indonesian Parliament from the PDI-P Fraction, Rifqinizamy Karsayuda, who emphasized that the Palestinian and Israeli issues are part of the long history of Indonesia’s alignment with Palestinian independence.

As the 1st President of the Republic of Indonesia, Bung Karno and all the founders of the nation have done since the beginning of independence, he said, as in a press release from the Parliament, Wednesday 19 May 2021.

“Bung Karno firmly stated, as long as the independence of the Palestinian nation has not been handed over to the Palestinians, then as long as that is the case the Indonesian nation stands against the Israeli occupation. This statement was issued by Bung Karno in 1962,” said Rifqi.

Deputy Chairman of Commission XI Indonesian House of Representatif for the current period, Abdul Fikri Faqih also highlighted the plan to accept the State of Israel, as one of the finalists for the U-20 Football World Cup which will be held in Indonesia this year.

According to him, the Indonesian government should pay close attention to Israel’s attitude as an colonial state that will come to Indonesia.

“The government must pay attention to the state’s attitude towards colonialism.  This is the mandate of the constitution and the founding fathers of the nation.  President Soekarno refused the Israeli delegation to enter Indonesia at the Asian Games IV (24-31 August 1962),” Abdul Fikri said in a written statement to the Parlementaria, quoted from, March 5, 2023 edition.

For this reason, he appealed to the government to pay attention to the current condition of Palestine.

He also appreciated Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi who conveyed the Indonesian government’s determination to defend Palestine at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting and highlighted the double standard on the Palestinian issue.

“I hope the government can be consistent in defending Palestine and be firm towards Israel,” said the politician from the PKS faction.

Moreover, Indonesia and Israel have indeed not had diplomatic relations since the beginning of Indonesia’s independence in 1945. Indonesia considers Israel to be colonizing the Palestinian territories, and this is contrary to the anti-colonial attitude of the Republic of Indonesia.

This is stated in the Foundation of the Preamble to the 1945 Constitution which states, “In fact, Independence is the right of all nations and because of that, colonialism in the world must be abolished, because it is not in accordance with humanity and justice.”

Indeed, the current situation is different, the world political situation, FIFA policies, and Indonesia’s own policies. What is the same is that Israel is still occupying Palestine. Even more cruel are his actions against the Palestinian people.

Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly Dr.  Hidayat Nur Wahid in his statement uploaded on the official website, 3 September 2022 stated, the Preamble of the 45th Constitution which is always socialized by the MPR indeed emphasizes the rejection of colonialism such as that carried out by Israel against Palestine.

He also said this, according to the principles of Indonesia’s independence goals to be involved in bringing about world order, which among other things is based on peace and independence.  The thing that still becomes – borrowing President Jokowi’s expression – is Indonesia’s debt to Palestine.

“So naturally the government would not allow the Israeli team to play in Indonesia, as President Sukarno had done before. Moreover, at that time (in 1957) the Palestinian land occupied by Israel was only 22%, while now more than 80% of the Palestinian land has been occupied and plundered by Israel,” said HNW, his nickname.

It should be easier for Indonesia as a sovereign country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, because Indonesia can firmly say that it cannot grant visas to citizens with Israeli passports, he continued.

“Moreover, as an independent and sovereign country, Indonesia can learn from many international sports events that respect the unique traditions and rules of each country. When handing over Formula 1 trophies in the Gulf countries, for example, you can without using champagne. Qatar, as the host of the 2022 World Cup, even firmly rejects everything related to LGBT and it turns out to be acceptable,” he continued, giving an example.

The uniqueness of Indonesia as an independent and sovereign country that rejects Israeli occupation and supports Palestinian independence, should be handled elegantly and consistently by the Government of Indonesia. So that it has an impact on supporting Palestinian independence and correcting Israel’s occupation of Palestine, he added.

HNW emphasized Indonesia’s constitutional commitment to defend Palestine within the framework of upholding independence and world order.

He stated that the Kemenpora and PSSI should have continued the constitutional stance that had been exemplified by Bung Karno and subsequent Indonesian Presidents.

“Kemenpora should not give guarantees to the Israel National Team, especially since it has not been discussed in the DPR.  It should first be discussed with the representatives of the people. And, listen to the conscience of the Indonesian people, by asking the MUI, Islamic organizations, and then return to Indonesian identity which consistently defends Palestine and rejects Israeli occupation,” he said.

He also emphasized that it is important for the government to pay attention to public rejection, and to be consistent with the basic attitude of the Indonesian Nation and State which rejects colonialism as stated in the Preamble to the 1945 Constitution which is still valid and increasingly relevant at times like today.

Political Will

It is possible that the athletes will come to Indonesia, using double passports from other countries. But they still fight on behalf of the state of Israel. This can be interpreted as recognition of the State of Israel, and ignoring the State of Palestine, through sporting events by ignoring humanity.

Of course, we still remember President Joko Widodo’s message that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has an interest in increasing pressure on Israel, including boycotting Israeli products produced in the occupied territories.

This was conveyed by President Jokowi in his closing speech at the OIC Extraordinary Summit Summit, in Jakarta, Monday 7 March 2016.

The President said, there is an urgency for the OIC to increase support for Palestine, through a number of concrete steps, namely “strengthening pressure on Israel, including boycotting Israeli products produced in the occupied territories”.  (Source:

The OIC Extraordinary Summit at that time, was attended by representatives from 57 countries, which focused on discussing the issues of Palestine and Jerusalem.

Yes, we are also waiting for the reaction of Islamic mass organizations, the vote of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the vote of the people’s representatives from the DPR Building, human rights activists, and so on.

Now, all that remains is the political will of the government policy makers themselves. Do you want to listen to the aspirations of the voices of the Indonesian people, then make a note of objection to FIFA, propose a third country when Israel plays, or firmly reject the Israeli national team entering Indonesia or even still accept it with various risks?  (T/RE1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)