Saudi Arabia footballers ignore minute’s silence for London attack victims

Saudi Arabias national football team have been criticised for failing to observe a minutes silence held as a tribute to the Australians killed in the London Bridge attacks before Thursdays World Cup qualifier against the Socceroos in Adelaide

Saudi Arabias national football team have been criticised for failing to observe a minutes silence held before Thursdays match against Australia in Adelaide.

The Socceroos lined up in the centre of the pitch before the World Cup qualifier and held the brief silence as a tribute to the two Australians killed in the terrorist attack in London at the weekend. As they did so, the Saudi Arabia team continued jogging, passing the ball between each other and taking their positions on the field. Pictures from the match show a single Saudi player, Salman al-Faraj, appearing to stand facing the Australia team with his hands behind his back.

Adam Peacock, a presenter with Fox Sports Australia, said on Twitter the Asian Football Confederation has approved the minutes silence against the wishes of travelling Saudi officials. He said the Football Federation of Australia tried to reason with the Saudis but were unable to persuade them to participate in the tribute.

Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3)

Pre game minute silence:
AFC approved it pre game.
Travelling Saudi officials said no.
FFA tried to reason, no avail and went ahead.

June 8, 2017

Sara Zelenak, 21, from Brisbane and the South Australian Kirsty Boden, 28, were killed in Saturday nights terrorist attack. Zelenak was working in London as a nanny and Boden was a nurse, whose family said she died running towards danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge. Two other Australians were stabbed in the neck in the attack, which has been claimed by the terrorist group Islamic State.

The decision not to participate in the tribute was met with criticism on Twitter.

Anthony Siokos (@AnthonySiokos)

Would’ve been nicer if our opposition showed some respect & lined up on the centre circle during the minute’s silence. Not hard. #AUSvKSA

June 8, 2017

Others defended the Saudi team, suggesting the minutes silence was not a recognised way to show respect and condolences in the countrys culture or in Islam more broadly.

(@2aziz_)

It’s misunderstood, even if the victims were in Riyadh or Dubai, They will not stand for a minute’s of silence

June 8, 2017

But that appeared to clash with other instances of Gulf countries holding minutes silences, including to mark the death of the former Saudi King Abdullah.

PoloLine (@Pololine)

1st match of the Silver Cup Zedan v UAE paying a respectful minute of silence for late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia pic.twitter.com/NhObtDAggJ

January 23, 2015

Times of Oman (@timesofoman)

A minute of silence for the passing of #SaudiArabia‘s King Abdullah before Handball World Championships match in Doha pic.twitter.com/cPelMMMGrR

January 23, 2015

Another image appeared to show a domestic Saudi team, al-Ahli Saudi FC, standing for a minutes silence before a Qatar Airways Cup match against Barcelona in December 2016.

Teams
Teams observe one minute of silence during the Qatar Airways Cup match in Doha between Barcelona and Al-Ahli Saudi FC on 13 December 2016. Photograph: AK Bijuraj/Getty Images

Australia went on to win the match 3-2, putting the country on track to qualify for the next World Cup in Russia in 2018.

On Friday the Saudi Arabian football federation made an unreserved apology.

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 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.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jun/08/saudi-arabia-footballers-ignore-minutes-silence-for-london-attack-victims