November 7 – Indonesia will host their first world championship finals tournament with the men’s U-17 World Cup 2023 kicking off this Friday.
To be held across four cities – Surabaya, Surakarta, Jakarta and Bandung – the 24-team tournament will be from November 10 to December 2.
The tournament will mark a step forward for the Indonesians after FIFA stripped Indonesia of hosting the U-20 World Cup 2023 following turmoil over the participation of Israel in the finals and fears that the predominantly muslim nation would refuse entry to the Israeli team who had qualified from Europe. Argentina ended up hosting.
Indonesia is also showing it can move on from one of the world’s worst stadium disasters in October 2022 when 135 people died in a crush following a match between fierce rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Arema’s Kanjuruhan Stadium.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has a record five teams at the finals which will open with hosts Indonesia taking on South American U-17 Championship 2023 runners-up Ecuador in what promises to be an electric atmosphere at the 45,000-capacity Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium in Surabaya.
Reigning Asian champions Japan, making their 10th and third consecutive U-17 World Cup appearance, will be the next AFC team to feature when they take on Poland in Group D at the Si Jalak Harupat Stadium in Bandung.
Perhaps the pick of the first round of fixtures will be in the nation’s capital at the Jakarta International Stadium where the Iran, in their fifth appearance, will face reigning champions and four-time winners Brazil in Group C. Iran who are unbeaten in their past nine group matches at the Finals.
In wishing the Asian teams good luck in what he described as a “watershed moment in the history of the global game. AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “Few places in the world share such a palpable passion for the beautiful game than Indonesia and we are confident that the Football Association of Indonesia, the Local Organising Committee, and the Indonesian Authorities will provide an excellent stage for the future stars of the game to shine.
“Our Asian teams have shown the world their ability to stand tall in the biggest arenas in world football, as underlined in the AFC’s Vision and Mission and we have every faith that they will showcase their undeniable talent in Indonesia,” Salman added.
Indonesia had initially expressed an interest in discussion of a joint bid for the 2034 World Cup that FIFA has mandated can only be played in the AFC/OFC region. Indonesia eventually bowed to peer pressure and pulled out of bidding before the deadline at the end of October. Saudi Arabia are the only contenders for hosting the 2034 finals.
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