ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has apologized for “any offense caused” after its players declined to participate in a minute’s silence in memory of last weekend’s deadly attacks in London before the start of a World Cup qualifying match against Australia.
When the stadium announcer called for a minute’s silence Thursday night to honor the eight victims, including two Australians, the 11 Australian players on the field lined up near the center circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders.
Saudi Arabian players stayed on the other side, most seemingly ignoring the gesture, which sparked an immediate backlash. Video appeared to show one Saudi player bending down to tie his shoelace during the minute of silence.
Australia won the match 3-2 to move level on points with Saudi Arabia and Japan atop the qualifying group with two games remaining.
Football Federation Australia said the Saudi team management knew about the plan to hold a minute’s silence before the match and had indicated that the players wouldn’t participate.
“Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” the FFA said in a statement. “The FFA 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.”