Saudi football chiefs have apologised after their national team elected not to take part in a minute’s silence for victims of the London Bridge attack.
Australian players linked arms as a sign of respect before Thursday’s World Cup qualifying match at Adelaide Oval.
Saudi players took up field positions and some continued to stretch.
Football officials said they had been told in advance that the “tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture”. An Australian MP called it “disgraceful”.
Eight people were killed and 48 injured on Saturday when three men drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before abandoning the vehicle and stabbing people in the surrounding area.
Two Australians, Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelenak, were among the eight victims of the terror attack.
‘No disrespect intended’
Australian football officials said the Saudi team had agreed a minute’s silence could be held.
But officials were “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,” a statement from Football Federation Australia said.
During the silence, as the Australian team lined up, Saudi players dispersed to take up their positions on the pitch. One player, number 7 Salman Al Faraj, appeared to stand still.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation made an “unreserved” apology on Friday.
“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.”
Several Australian politicians have criticised the Saudi team.
“This is not about culture,” one MP, Anthony Albanese, told the local Nine network. “This is about a lack of respect and I thought it was disgraceful.”
Asked about the incident, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had not seen the footage, adding: “The whole world… is united in condemnation of that terrorist attack and terrorism generally.”
It does appear that Saudi sportsmen have observed silences in the past. Players from Al-Ahli Saudi FC observed one minute of silence before the Qatar Airways Cup match with FC Barcelona on 13 December 2016 in Doha, Qatar, in memory of players from Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense who died in a plane crash on 28 November.
Source: BBC News