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Maple Leafs’ John Tavares is not a hockey robot: ‘He has Kombucha in a keg’



John Tavares will play in his 1,000th NHL game this weekend.

The Maple Leafs captain is known for being, well, kind of a hockey robot — incredibly serious, even robotic, about his craft.

Is it true? Is there anything more to the 32-year-old beyond hockey?

I decided to find out by asking a smattering of his teammates with the Leafs, most current and one from the not-so-distant past.


(Conversations have been edited for clarity.)

The foodie

Let’s start here: John Tavares LOVES food.

Mitch Marner: He’s definitely a bit of a foodie.

Alex Kerfoot: Whenever we go to cities on the road he always has a place that he wants to go. And he’s very particular about what he eats. When we’re in L.A., he’ll drive like 40 minutes away to go to a restaurant, because it’s a really good restaurant. He has places picked out.

Mark Giordano: He mixes it up between Italian, steakhouses, stuff like that.

Jason Spezza: Local. Organic. Healthy. But not too healthy. He likes good restaurants. He likes good quality restaurants. He doesn’t like going to chain restaurants.

Giordano: I enjoy just sitting back and getting the luxury of having a good restaurant picked for me.

TJ Brodie: You know if you’re going out to dinner with him it’s Johnny-approved. It’s bound to be healthy.

Giordano: You worry, maybe I’m ordering too much cheese around him or something like that.

Kerfoot: If they have a special, he’ll always get the house special. If he gets big chickens — I’ve never seen a guy eat (like that). It looks like a carcass when he’s done with it. Like there’s not a piece of meat (left). Like he’s licking the thing (clean). It’s gross watching him eat chicken or turkey or legs or anything like that. It’s just what he does. He wants all the nutrients, all the fibre, whatever.

John Tavares. (Claus Andersen / Getty Images)

Tavares is known for carrying olive oil (seriously) around with him on the road.

Spezza: He usually picks restaurants good enough where he wouldn’t have to bring the olive oil. But (during the bubble 2020-21 season) he carried the olive oil with him because we were going to hotels that maybe didn’t meet the standard.

Marner: He brings it everywhere with him.

Justin Holl: I think he brings some Himalayan pink sea salt too sometimes. I swear. I’m not joking.

Spezza: He just likes quality control. Nothing he puts in his body is low quality. So for him, sauces, that kind of stuff, I don’t think he wants the preservatives. He has certain brands of olive oil he likes, certain brands of water he likes, certain brands of sauces he likes, so he’s very particular when it comes to that kind of stuff.

Holl: He’s a big wine guy, too. He has an app where you can put all the wines that you’ve had and try to check as many off a list.

Brodie: Whenever we have a full team dinner, everyone always tells him to go ahead (and pick the wine).

Holl: He’s our Sommelier, our team Sommelier.

William Nylander: He just orders the wine. I enjoy the wine. I’m not complaining.

Morgan Rielly: He’s into Italian wine. I think since having kids he’s told me that there’s less consuming of it going on. We’ve both experienced going to some vineyards and stuff, so we’ve talked about that. And when we’ve had dinner we’ve had some nice wines, some expensive stuff.

Holl: If we’re not getting a meal a lot of times (on the road), he’ll get a meal from the plane because it’s really healthy and good food.

Rielly: We’re provided great meals everywhere we go, but Johnny brings his own sometimes. That’s just, to my knowledge, a conscious health decision.

Spezza: He’ll cheat. I think in-season he’s really regimented and really worried about inflammation and that kind of stuff. But especially in the summer, he’ll let his guard down. I’ve been up to his place a few times, up in Muskoka, and he has burgers and he’s got a nice pizza oven that he makes nice pizzas.

Brodie: I got to go to his cottage this summer. He had a bunch of guys there and it was a good time.

Marner: Just a couple guys up there hanging out, boating around, golfing, stuff like that.

Brodie: He had it all set up for the boys. We didn’t really have to worry about anything.

Spezza: I think Johnny, I’ve seen him evolve. Like, having team parties at his house. He’s a great host. Everything’s planned perfectly. He’s not a bad host, that’s for sure.

Marner: He had someone up for us that made us all the breakfast, lunch, and dinners and stuff like that.

Spezza: John makes a mean pizza.

Margherita and veggie pizzas are his pizza specialties, Spezza said.

Spezza: At his cottage, he has Kombucha in a keg that he has tapped.

Longevity man

Holl: We played some tennis when we were in Muskoka, and he came and watched me, so it fired him up to get back into tennis.

Spezza: I’m actually impressed that Johnny is a guy that, he did not grow up on the lake, he did not drive a boat, but he’s become a good wakeboarder and can drive a boat and teach you how to wakeboard. It shows (that) once he’s into something, like he bought the cottage — he’s like an all-in type of guy. My wife’s from up on the lake and I don’t do any water sports or anything like that. But Johnny bought the cottage, he bought the boat, learned how to wakeboard, like, he’s all in.

Brodie: He got up on the surf. He was pretty good. We golfed once. He’s a decent golfer.

Marner: Big golf guy.

Holl: He likes to play pickleball a lot, I know.

Giordano: He’s a big sports guy. It always amazes me. Any sport. Like fantasy football, he knows every player. Basketball, he knows every player.

Holl (in November): His fantasy football team’s struggling a little bit.

Spezza: I think the kids, where they’ve helped him off the ice, they’ve hurt him in his fantasy football. He’s slow on the uptake. Slow to set (his) roster. That’s not his forte.

Holl (in January): I think I’ve gotta revise my statement because he ended up getting second in the league. I think I lost to (Auston Matthews), but (Auston) won and John got second place.

Rielly (looking in the direction of Kerfoot): Kerf, what’s in Johnny’s backpack?

Kerfoot: What is not in his backpack?

John Tavares. (Nick Turchiaro / USA Today)

Spezza: His backpack is usually recovery tools, supplements, and general performance stuff.

Kerfoot: I know what he brings (in his backpack). He brings his own olive oil. His own sea salt. He brings his own coconut water. Amino acids.

Rielly: S— like that. Vitamins.

Spezza: I would think that Tom Brady is a guy that he tries to emulate. I see lots of similarities between his approach and what you read about Tom’s approach.

Holl: He likes his recovery. He likes the red light. I don’t know if you know what that is, but it’s supposed to simulate sunlight. I have a portable one that you bring on the plane and you bring on the road. It’s supposed to stimulate ATP production in your cells, so your cells regenerate faster. He’s got one of those.

Spezza: He’s probably going to live forever! He takes great care of himself.

Kerfoot: He does this crazy thing where when we’re on the plane he has to keep his window open. So we’ll be flying, if we’re trying to change time zones, he wants to keep his circadian rhythm so he always has his window open.

Holl: I think he thinks that there’s some sort of Vitamin D correlation. I’m not sure if it comes through the window or not. But it’s actually funny because I’m sitting right across the aisle from him. We play video games on the plane. It’s Auston, (Michael Bunting), and (Zach Aston-Reese) and I. Sometimes you get the glare on the screen going and I’m like, “Johnny! Close the window!”

Spezza: So he’s like what do you call it, a longevity, human performance specialist. So if you want to know about what’s good for your body, what to do — he would have listened to a podcast or read about it. He’s a guy to go to with stuff like that.

John Tavares. (Courtesy of Toronto Maple Leafs)

Kerfoot: We’re playing cards on the plane or guys are sleeping, doing their own thing — it’s the only window on the plane that’s open. It’s insane. But he has to keep it open the whole time.

Marner: We all make fun of him for it.

Nylander: It’s just him. It’s just funny.

Brodie: I don’t know how he sleeps, because the sun is literally right in his face. And he’s passed out the whole time.

Fun guy

Spezza: John actually likes to play cards. He’s a notoriously slow card player. Slow to make decisions. So, we try to coax him into playing cards with us, and he actually likes it, but he doesn’t like playing too late into the night. It’ll disrupt his sleep schedule.

Holl: I think he’s pretty deliberate with his decisions and everything like that. He is slow.

Spezza: He’s gotta speed his game up a little bit! That’s a fun John quirk that we like to needle him about.

Tavares’ card game of choice: 7 Up and 7 Down.

Rielly: A big part of his life is family and his kids and spending time with them.

Spezza: I think he loves being a dad. It gives him something away from the game to focus on.

Rielly: He talks about his kids a lot.

Marner: He’s got a love for the people around him, friends and family. He takes care of his family very well and takes care of his teammates very well as well. He puts others before himself a lot of times and that’s probably something a lot of people don’t know.

Spezza: There’s times when you can call him and he won’t touch his phone because it’s scheduled time to be away from the phone. He’s very diligent when it comes to preparation and timing.

Holl: I don’t know what book he’s been reading recently, but we’ll talk about books a lot, because I like books. I know he’s a big reader. On the plane, he’ll watch shows. I think he was watching that “House of Dragons” recently.

Spezza: He reads lots of books. Mostly biographies or stuff on something that interests him. He’s into some of that — human performance stuff.

Holl: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that he likes Mumford & Sons.

Marner: I know he loves Celine Dion, that’s about it. I don’t know anything else, but he loves Celine Dion for sure.

Rielly: We had karaoke one night and he sang “My Heart Will Go On,” which is a good song — not for karaoke. He’s got pretty old-school taste, I think.

Spezza: His style of dress, I say, would mirror his personality. Where it’s like quality but understated.

John Tavares. (Courtesy of Toronto Maple Leafs)

Marner: People probably don’t notice a lot, he’s got a lot of designer on his body. Low key stuff.

Brodie: Coming here, I didn’t know him before, so I pictured him as being very serious and always sort of (having his) game face (on). But from being here the last couple years, he’s definitely more laid back and easygoing than I thought he would be as far as joking around and having fun with the guys.

Spezza: There’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to humour. Little bit of a dry sense of humour at times.

Giordano: He chirps me because he says I like watching CP24 a lot, watch the news a lot in the room.

Kerfoot: I think he has a reputation of being very serious all the time, and he is very thoughtful. But he’s not afraid to give it around the guys.

Jason Spezza, left, with John Tavares. (John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)

Brodie: I think it’s even funnier coming from him because he doesn’t always chirp, so when he does it’s funny.

Giordano: He’s one of my dinner partners, so we go out for dinner a lot and he has interesting takes — we talk a lot of hockey and stuff like that — but he does have a great sense of humour for sure that you guys don’t see.

Spezza: Over the years, what I’ve learned about John is he’s learned to let off a little bit and blow off some steam. I’ve known John since he came into the league, because we trained together in the summers, and early on he was very rigid and very, like, stuck in his ways and kind of like, scared, I think, to ever step outside his box. And I think as he’s matured and gotten older he picks his spots and has learned to just enjoy himself too.

Rielly: To me, he’s never really appeared like a guy who’s overly concerned about hockey as much as it is just trying to maximize his ability to do his job.

Spezza: I remember early in his Islanders days and he was warming up in the hallway. I knew him, so it wasn’t a shock to me, but people in Ottawa (were) like, “Look at this guy! Look at the way he prepares!”

Spezza recalled one of Tavares’ first appearances at the renowned Sidney Crosby (and Spezza)-led summer training sessions in Vail, Colorado.

Spezza: Johnny and Matt Duchene were coming as young guys. Matt was just kinda eyes wide open and Johnny was very focused, very dialed, there for business, wanted to show everybody how good he was.

Rielly: He’s not a hockey robot because it comes naturally. Like, he’s not acting. He’s not really going to the ends of the Earth to try to be healthy. That’s just what he chooses to do. I think he would do that whether he was a hockey player or not.

Spezza: One thing I’ve always admired about Johnny is his intensity whenever he’s on the ice. Everything has an intention. I don’t know if that’s something that he learned over the years. But even summer hockey skates, everything has an intention to it.

Rielly: That’s just his personality. He hones in on something. It happens to be hockey. So he spends lots of time on the ice, he spends lots of time in the gym, and he spends lots of time focusing on nutrition.

(Top photo: Mark Blinch / NHLI via Getty Images)


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Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos bidding for Washington Commanders – The Globe and Mail



Washington Commanders guard Wes Schweitzer works out before a preseason NFL football game, on Aug. 27, 2022, in Baltimore. If Apostolopoulos wins the auction for the Commanders, sources say he plans to build a new stadium near Washington and redevelop FedEx Field and the team’s practice facility in Virginia, potentially making US$1-billion on the real estate.Julio Cortez

In 2009, Toronto real-estate developer Andreas Apostolopoulos shocked the U.S. sports community by purchasing an 80,000-seat football stadium in the Detroit suburbs for the rock-bottom price of just US$583,000.

A generation later, son Steve Apostolopoulos is shaking up pro sports with an audacious move at the other end of the spectrum. Where his late father snagged a bargain, his Harvard University-educated offspring will potentially set a new high-water mark for the value of a professional franchise, as one of two bidders offering more than US$6-billion for the National Football League’s Washington Commanders.

In vying for an NFL team, the formerly low-profile Apostolopoulos is striving for membership in the most exclusive of clubs, as an owner of a pro sports franchise. If he buys the Commanders, the son of a Greek immigrant will be rubbing shoulders with heirs to the Walmart fortune, who acquired the Denver Broncos last summer for a record US$4.65-billion, and hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, who acquired the Carolina Panthers in 2018 for a then-record US$2.2-billion.


To buy the Commanders, Apostolopoulos will need to outbid a group led by Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest alternative asset funds. Harris already owns the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and a stake in the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils and is worth an estimated US$7-billion.

Over the past 18 months, Apostolopoulos has built a relationship with NBA player agent Bernie Lee, president of Thread Sports Management LTD. In an interview, Lee said the real-estate executive has done the work needed to succeed as a team owner.

“Steve has immersed himself in the inner workings of pro sports, from understanding players and team management to the big-picture issues around the league,” said Lee, who represents basketball stars Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons. “Steve’s business and people skills are comparable to, or exceed, those of any sports owner I’ve meet.”

Prior to turning his attention to the NFL, Apostolopoulos was one of several bidders on a stake owner Michael Jordan is selling in the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Apostolopoulos’s wealth comes from commercial and industrial real estate that he owns with his two older brothers, Jim and Peter, through a private company called the Triple Properties. The portfolio includes office towers in Detroit, movie studios and a 40-acre complex near Toronto anchored by the Pickering Casino Resort. Apostolopoulos did not respond Wednesday to an interview request.

TriBro Studios, the family’s collection of sound stages in the Toronto area, count Disney, Bell Media and Netflix as clients. The studios include an industrial site, ‘The Pit,’ that can be flooded and serves as a backdrop for science fiction, horror and action shoots.

In Pickering, Triple used a casino run by Great Canadian Entertainment as the anchor for a larger development featuring a hotel, restaurants and a concert venue that will play host to singer Bryan Adams in April. Apostolopoulos, along with potential lenders that include Royal Bank of Canada, see a similar real-estate play in Washington’s football team, which current owner Daniel Snyder acquired in 1999 for US$800-million, according to two sources familiar with the potential buyer’s plans.

Washington’s current stadium, FedEx Field, opened in 1997 and is considered dated. Snyder owns the property and has proposed moving to a new site within the city, or in nearby Maryland or Virginia. Redevelopment plans were put on hold after the NFL fined Snyder US$10-million in 2021 following an investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace issues at the Commanders. Last November, Snyder announced he would sell all or part of the team.

If he wins the auction, Apostolopoulos plans to build a new stadium near Washington and redevelop FedEx Field and the team’s practice facility in Virginia, potentially making US$1-billion on the real estate, according to sources. They said the Commanders consistently turn a profit on television revenues, and are expected to increase revenues from ticket and merchandise sales if a new owner can restore fan interest in a former marquee franchise that has won three Super Bowls.

The Commanders – rebranded in 2022 after Snyder yielded to years of protests over the name Redskins – had the lowest home attendance in the NFL last year, selling 85 per cent of seats. No other team sold less than 92 per cent of tickets to home games.

Along with real estate, Apostolopoulos runs a private equity fund, Six Ventures Inc. One of the fund’s investments is credit card and expense management company Caary Capital, which services small to medium-sized businesses. As part of Caary’s launch, Apostolopoulos offered advice to entrepreneurs.

“You will get 1,000 defeats in business. Every time you get defeated, it will make you stronger. Stay with it. Keep rolling. Don’t give up,” he said. “Oh, and don’t do bad deals.”

In Pontiac, Mich., Apostolopoulos’s father acquired the former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions – the Silverdome – by making a lowball offer in an auction for the city-owned stadium after the football team moved downtown. The new owner paid less than 2 per cent of the building’s US$55-million construction cost in 1975.

The Apostolopoulos family revived the abandoned facility by booking boxing, monster truck shows and concerts. However, the Silverdome’s roof partly collapsed in 2013 after a snowfall, and the building was torn down in 2017. Triple enticed Amazon into opening a warehouse on the site in 2021, the same year Andreas Apostolopoulos passed away at the age of 69.

Heirs to Canadian real-estate fortunes are also among the leading contenders to acquire the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, which went up for sale last November following the death of owner Eugene Melnyk.

The Toronto-based Kimel family, who run developer Harlo Capital, Vaughan-based Remington Group president Christopher Bratty and Ottawa-based Roger Greenberg, executive chair of Minto Group, have all shown interest in the Senators. The club could fetch more than US$900-million, the highest price paid for an NHL team, with the new owner expected to attempt to increase the club’s revenues by moving from the suburbs to a new, downtown arena.

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Summer McIntosh sets world record in 400m freestyle at Canadian swimming trials – Yahoo News Canada



Summer McIntosh competes in the women’s 400-metre freestyle event at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on Tuesday. McIntosh set the world record during the race with a time of 3:56.08, supplanting Australia’s Ariarne Titmus. (Michael P. Hall/Swimming Canada – image credit)

Summer McIntosh is now the world record holder in the 400-metre freestyle event.

The 16-year-old phenom electrified the hometown crowd with another memorable performance on Tuesday night at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on opening night of the national trials.

With her parents, Jill and Greg McIntosh in the crowd, Summer stopped the clock in a time of 3:56.08, breaking the world record held by Ariarne Titmus of Australia.


It’s her first world record — she holds many world junior and national records.

McIntosh was overrun with emotion after the race as she looked up at her parents cheering in the stands.

WATCH | How Summer McIntosh’s world record swim looked from poolside:

The normally composed and reserved teen broke down in tears.

“I’m not a crier,” she told CBC Sports after the race.

“It’s absolutely incredible. I’m not an emotional person. But I was hit with so much emotion. Pure euphoria right now. I’m just so grateful for everyone who got me to this point.”

WATCH | McIntosh sets women’s 400m freestyle world record:

McIntosh fought back tears as she described the moment.

“Over the past few years I’ve put my life into this. To be the best I can be. To achieve something like this, it was very unexpected. It was never in my dreams to do this tonight or even a few years ago. This just blows my mind.”

Summer’s head coach Brent Arckey, who travelled from Sarasota, Fla., for the event was equally emotional after the swim.

“I’m not really sure what to say right now. I’m trying to hold it all in. But celebrating her. This is a special thing,” he said.

“I’ve seen her do some really special stuff in practice. I’m just super proud of her. She’s one of the best racers I’ve ever seen.”

Mother Jill’s valuable experience

Jill, who competed in swimming at the 1984 Olympics for Canada, has valuable experience to lean on to help guide her daughter.

She was bursting with pride as she watched Summer touch the wall on Tuesday night at trials.

“I’m so proud of Summer and the person she is, foremost. I just hope she’s happy with her races here this week,” Jill said.

“She loves this facility. It’s all learning at this point heading into the worlds this summer and the Paris Olympics. This is a stepping stone.”

Michael P. Hall/Swimming CanadaMichael P. Hall/Swimming Canada

Michael P. Hall/Swimming Canada

Greg talked about how nice it is to be able to drive to the pool to watch his daughter — something that doesn’t happen all that often these days.

“I know she’s training in Florida but she will always be Canadian and we are so proud of her,” he said.

Arckey says each meet from here until the Paris 2024 Olympics is a chance to tinker with things and ultimately get better.

“I don’t fully understand what she means to Canada because I’m not Canadian. I don’t live here, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of what she means to the country,” Arckey said.

“The world championships this summer is the first big test. And we’re going to try to do right by Canada.”

Summer’s meteoric rise doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Her intensity is realized through an unmistakable stoicism despite what’s happening behind her focused face.

Thriving in, out of the pool

McIntosh is thriving, both in swimming and in life, and is loving being in Florida with her club team.

At the place they call the Shark Tank, home of the Sarasota Sharks club, there are three outdoor 25m pools. All 29 lanes spread across the three pools are constantly churned up by legs and arms creating a cacophony of splashing.

Upwards of 60 to 70 swimmers are in the pool during morning practices, including Summer, who is there two times each day of the week.

For as intense and focused as Summer is each training session, she’s also having fun. With a group of swimmers her age with the same goals and dreams as her in the pool, the teen from Canada says she’s right where she wants to be.

“There’s a bunch of girls and guys down here that I’ve started to get really close to and get to know really well, and they’re also going to be travelling on the world stage and that’s really exciting for them and I’m very proud of all of them and what they’ve accomplished so far,” Summer said.

“Together as a group, we’ve really grown and continued to improve our swimming, which is obviously the main goal, but also having fun while doing so.”

‘You have to have fun’

It’s something Jill feels is important.

She doesn’t want her daughter to be so singularly focused on swimming that she forgets to be a kid sometimes.

“I think as parents Greg and I want to make sure the kids are having fun. You have to have fun. No matter how old you are, have fun through your whole career,” Jill said.

“And you have to celebrate the steps along the way.”

In between swimming sessions in Florida, Summer squeezes in school and strength and conditioning sessions.

About ten minutes away from the Shark Tank, Summer works out at the Positive Sports Lab with director Jason Riley. He’s trained NFL and MLB players as well as Olympic gold medallists.

Inside the space there is top-of-the-line equipment at every turn.

Summer can easily do three sets of pushups with a 20-kilogram weight on her back before picking up a medicine ball.

“Doing that is not something you see every day from someone her age. She does not mess around. She’s extremely dedicated to her craft and has the mindset you see in a lot of world-class athletes,” Riley says.

“Summer is a special athlete. She has god-given talent and this unique work ethic and discipline. The sky’s the limit for her.”

What becomes evident very quickly is how much the team around Summer is doing everything it can to make sure she stays in a healthy mental and physical mindset.

She has the experience of her mom’s career to lean on. She has a coach in Arckey who unequivocally respects what Summer’s trying to achieve.

“I have such amazing people surrounding me with family, friends and all the coaches, and I’m so grateful for that and I honestly could not be having any more fun than this,” Summer says.

Other notable results

Eric Brown, 20, of Pointe-Claire, Que., had the unenviable task of following up McIntosh’s stunning performance, swimming to gold in the men’s 400m free finals with a time of 3:50.81.

Also taking home a gold medal in the men’s competition was James Leroux in the 100m breaststroke (Para) with a time of 1:10.97.

First-place finishers in the women’s events were Niki Ens in the 50m breaststroke (Para) with a time of 1:43.32, and Tess Routliffe clocking in at 1:34.68 in the 100m breaststroke.

WATCH | Day 1 finals of the Canadian Swimming Trials:

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Indonesia stripped of men’s U20 World Cup amid turmoil over Israeli participation



Indonesia was stripped of hosting rights for the under-20 World Cup on Wednesday only eight weeks before the start of the tournament amid political turmoil regarding Israel’s participation.

FIFA said Indonesia was removed from staging the 24-team tournament scheduled to start on May 20 “due to the current circumstances” without specifying details.

The decision followed a meeting in Doha, Qatar between Indonesian soccer federation president Erick Thohir and Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

Israel qualified in June of last year for its first under-20 World Cup. But the country’s participation in the official draw for tournament groups, scheduled to be held Friday in Bali, provoked political opposition this month.


Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, while publicly supporting the Palestinian cause.

Indonesia’s host status for the tournament was cast into doubt last Sunday when FIFA postponed the draw.

Argentina reportedly interested in hosting

It is unclear who could now host the tournament, which was scheduled to be played in six stadiums in Indonesia. Argentina, which did not qualify for the tournament, is reportedly interested in hosting.

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged,” FIFA said.

The Indonesian soccer federation could be further disciplined by FIFA. A suspension could remove Indonesia from Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. The continental qualifiers start in October.

FIFA seemed to remove all blame Wednesday from Thohir, the former president of Italian club Inter Milan — the team Infantino supports — and a former co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.

FIFA staff will continue to work in Indonesia in the months ahead, the governing body said, “under the leadership of President Thohir.”

Thohir said as a member of FIFA, Indonesia had little choice but to accept the decision.

“I have tried my best,” he said in a statement. “After delivering a letter from President Joko Widodo and discussing it at length with the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, we must accept FIFA’s decision to cancel the holding of the event that we are both looking forward to.”

He said although he’d conveyed all the concerns and hopes of Indonesia’s president, soccer lovers as well as the players from the under-20 Indonesian national team, “FIFA considered that the current situation cannot be continued.”

Soccer and public authorities in Indonesia agreed to FIFA’s hosting requirements in 2019 before being selected to stage the 2021 edition of the under-20 World Cup. The coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament to be postponed for two years.

President objects to Israel’s participation

But Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Tuesday evening that his administration objected to Israel’s participation. He told citizens that the country agreed to host before knowing Israel would qualify.

However, the removal of the hosting rights by FIFA has raised concerns within Indonesian soccer.

Arya Sinulingga, an executive committee member of Indonesia’s national soccer association PSSI, was concerned about further repercussions.

“This is a sign that we are not able to carry out what has been asked (by FIFA) … among other things that there should be no discrimination,” Sinulingga said in an interview with a local television, “What we are most worried about right now is that we will be ostracized from international events, especially from world soccer activities.”

He said that “it can happen and it will be very detrimental to us in many ways.”

“We have something that is bigger than losing our right to host the under-20 World Cup. We have to face it in the near future, and that could effect the future of our sport,” Sinulingga said, “We are now fighting not to get sanctioned, but people should know … this is too hard.”

Israel qualified for the tournament by reaching the semifinals of the under-19 European Championship. The team went on to lose to England in that final.

Israel plays in Europe as a member of UEFA after leaving the Asian Football Confederation in the 1970s for political and security reasons.

FIFA bills the men’s under-20 World Cup as “the tournament of tomorrow’s superstars.”

Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba are previous winners of the official player of the tournament award, and Erling Haaland was the top scorer at the 2019 edition.



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