Twelve teams will battle for honors in the football competition at this year’s Islamic Solidarity Games — down on the number at the first and only Games in 2005.
The 12 teams have been selected from among the 26 nations sending delegations to the Games. While the Palembang, South Sumatra, event officially runs from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1, the football competition will start on Sept. 19.
The football competition at the inaugural Games involved 14 countries, with host Saudi Arabia coming out on top.
Djoko Pramono, the sports and competition director of the Indonesia Islamic Solidarity Games Organizing Committee, said the 12 countries were chosen by the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation and revealed during a meeting in Palembang last week.
“It was really difficult at first to select the participants, and organizers agreed to leave it to the ISSF as the official body to do the job. The ISSF then came out with the decision to give the opportunity to the first 12 countries registered for the Games to send their football teams,” Djoko told the Jakarta Globe.
The 12 countries are Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Despite complaints from other countries, Djoko said the decision was fair.
“Considering a budget shortfall and short preparation time issues, the decision is the best. We don’t have enough time and money to host qualifying tournaments for the Games. And the ISSF doesn’t have a fixed regulation for qualifying, either,” he added.
Organizers are preparing two venues for football: Madya Bumi Sriwijaya Stadium and Sriwijaya Jakabaring Main Stadium. Djoko said both venues need only minor renovations before the Games.
Meanwhile, the Indonesia under 23 national team, which will represent the country at the event, hopes for a home advantage by training in both stadiums.
“We chose Yogyakarta for the team’s training camp initially, but then we agreed to move it to Palembang, so the players can enjoy early adaptation for the Games,” head coach Rahmad Darmawan told news portal detik.com.
Rahmad said the ISG would held the Young Garuda team prepare for December’s Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
This year’s ISG, comprising 13 sports, is open to non-Muslim competitors of participating countries.
Palembang was appointed as the Games host city, replacing Pekanbaru in Riau due to inadequate preparations.
Riau was considered incapable of hosting the Games following the 2012 National Games (PON) corruption case levied against Governor Rusli Zainal.
In March, subcontractors sealed off Riau Main Stadium after halting work, demanding payment.
Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium in Palembang will be used for September’s Islamic Solidarity Games. JG Photo/Safir Makk i