Sydney (AFP) – The Saudi Arabia football team was accused of “a disgraceful lack of respect” Friday for failing to observe a minute’s silence in honour of victims of the London terror attack ahead of a game in Australia.
When the stadium announcer in Adelaide called for a pause before the World Cup qualifier kicked off Thursday evening, the Australian team lined up at the centre circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders.
But most of the Saudis milled around and spread out to various parts of the field, with team officials claiming the tradition of stopping to honour the dead was “not in keeping with Saudi culture”.
It left fans and politicians in Australia fuming, with two Australians among the eight killed last weekend when three Islamist extremists mowed down people on London Bridge before going on a stabbing spree.
“That was a disgraceful lack of respect for not just the two Australians who were killed … but also all of those victims of that terror attack in London,” Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said.
“There’s no excuse here. This isn’t about culture. This is about a lack of respect and I thought it was disgraceful.”
Senator Derryn Hinch was also outraged, saying: “It is an insult.”
Twitter also lit up with criticism.
Frank Gardner tweeted “disgraceful and disrespectful”, while Paul Jurdeczka said: “Minute silence not in Saudi culture. Except when it suits them. About showing respect. Which is human.”
Football Federation Australia said agreement had been sought from the Asian Football Confederation and the Saudi team to pause and remember those killed in the terror attack.
“Both the AFC and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” an FFA spokesman told AFP.
“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.”
Australia won the match 3-2 win to stay on track for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
The Australians joined Japan and Saudi Arabia at the top of Asia Group B and now face a huge game against Japan in Saitama on August 31.