The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has apologised for its national team after their World Cup qualifer against Australia. In the minute’s silence that was held before the match for victims of the attacks in London, the Saudi players did not line-up in the centre circle and walked around and warmer up around the pitch.
The Australia team lined up in the centre circle ahead of the match at Adelaide Oval late on Thursday but all bar one of the Saudi players, although silent, dispersed around the pitch and continued to jog and stretch.
According to Reuters, Football Federation Australia (FFA) said it had “sought agreement” from the Saudis and regional governing body, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), to hold the minute’s silence. Reuters also quoted the spokesperson of the federation as saying that it was “further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field.”
The Saudi FA subsequent stated that it “deeply” regretted and “unreservedly” apologised for their players not “formally” observing the minute’s silence. “The players did not intend any disrespect to the memories of the victims or to cause upset to their families, friends or any individual affected by the atrocity,” it added.
“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation condemns all acts of terrorism and extremism and extends its sincerest condolences to the families of all the victims and to the government and people of the United Kingdom.”
The AFC, on its part, said that it had monitored the incident but any disciplinary action against the players would be taken by FIFA, who holds jurisdiction over all World Cup qualifiers.
Two Australians were among the eight people killed and 50 injured after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge on June 3, then attacked revellers nearby with knives.
The incident prompted a social media storm and comes at a time when Australians are still mourning victims of recent attacks.
Australia won the match 3-2 to move level on 16 points in Group B with the second-placed Saudis and leaders Japan, who have a game in hand, with two rounds to play.
The top two teams win a place at the World Cup finals in Russia next year.