Saudi Arabia decline to line up for minute's silence for London attack
Saudi Arabia declined to participate in a minute's silence to honour the victims of last weekend's London attack before their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Adelaide on Thursday, their opponents Australia said.
The 11 Australia players on the pitch lined up at the centre circle with arms on their teammates' shoulders when the stadium announcer called for a minute's silence to reflect on Saturday's attack, in which two Australians were among the eight people killed.
However, their opponents from Saudi Arabia milled about separately on the other side, sparking outrage in British media reports and leaving questions to whether the Saudis were aware of the plan or were purposely ignoring the gesture.
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) said after the match that the Saudis both knew about and agreed to the plan to hold a minute's silence but declined to participate in the manner traditional at football games.
"Both the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,'' the Australian federation said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"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 Saudi football federation issued a statement saying it "deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offense caused."
"The players did not intend any disrespect to the memories of the victims or to cause upset to their families, friends or any individual affect by the atrocity," the Saudi statement said. "The Saudi Arabian Football Federation condemns all acts of terrorism and extremism and extends its sincerest condolences to the families of all the victims."
Typically, FIFA representatives meet with officials from both teams and the referee a day before a World Cup qualifier to discuss all game protocol issues, including plans for a minute's silence.
Australia ended up winning the match 3-2, leaving them and Saudi Arabia level at 16 points in their qualifying group. Japan also have 16 points but have a game in hand.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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