The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has apologised for its national team failing to properly observe a minute’s silence for the victims of the recent London attacks before the start of their World Cup qualifier against Australia on Thursday night.
Australian soccer chiefs on Thursday night sought to defuse growing outrage over what UK media has characterised as a Saudi Arabian snub for the memories of the eight victims of last weekend’s London terrorist attack.
The Socceroos were playing the Saudis in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Adelaide Oval earlier in the evening.
On Friday morning, the SAFF says it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offence”.”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,” they said in a statement.
“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 FFA said that the Saudis had agreed to observe a minute’s silence to commemorate the dead – but in their own cultural fashion.
The silence was due to be held in memory of the victims slain in the attacks in the London Bridge area of the English capital, two of whom were Australian women.
The Socceroos linked arms and stood in a line in the centre of the pitch, while the Saudis stood around in loose groups or alone.
They observed the silence, but did not do so in the manner traditionally associated with such memorials – a fact that has been seized on by British newspapers angry at what they see as a lack of respect for those who lost their lives in London and, two weeks earlier, in Manchester.
The crowd at the Adelaide Oval was silent, while witnesses who spoke to Fairfax Media said several men who appeared to be Saudi supporters stood to attention in the stands while the silence was being observed.
In a statement, the FFA explained that it had been its suggestion to stage the public memorial at the match.
“The FFA sought agreement from the Asian Football Confederation and the Saudi national team to hold a minute’s silence in memory of those lost in Saturday night’s terror bombings in London and in particular the two Australian women,” a spokesman said.
“Both the AFC and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held.
“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.
“The local broadcaster, Fox Sports, was informed of this prior to the minute’s silence taking place.”
Source : The Canberra Times