UPDATE: After the London Bridge attack that killed eight people, Australians at a soccer match with Saudi Arabia's national team observed a moment of silence for the Australian victims of this senseless act of violence. The Saudi team, however, failed to join, drawing a great deal of criticism from fans and online users.
Now, Saudi Arabia's Football Federation is apologizing for the faux pas.
On Friday, the organization said that it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologizes for any offense caused by the failure of some members of the representative team of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to formally observe the one minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the London terrorist attack.”
The federation added that the group condemns “all acts of terrorism” and 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.”
The same day, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce expressed hopes that the Saudi government would have a “strong word” with the players after their lack of solidarity during the Thursday night match.
Saudi Arabia has been in the news a lot lately, and for all the worst reasons. Now, the controversial kingdom is once again under scrutiny, and mostly because its soccer players appear oblivious to the suffering of those who were killed or injured in the London Bridge attack.
During a Thursday night game against Australia, organizers observed a moment of silence for the victims of London's horrific and deadly terrorist attack, but Saudi players refused to go along, prompting outrage, The Guardian reports.
As Australian players were seen standing in line to observe the tribute, the Saudi team were seen getting in formation. Bench players were also spotted ignoring the directive, choosing to remain seated.
After the incident sparked international outrage, a Football Federation of Australia spokesperson told reporters that Saudi officials said they would not participate in the moment of silence prior to the game because it is not in keeping with their culture.
On social media, Australian soccer fans showed outrage over the Saudi team's refusal to take part in the tribute that sought to celebrate the lives of the two Australians killed in the London attack.
Kirsty Boden, 28, from South Australia, and Sara Zelenak, 21, from Brisbane, were murdered Saturday night in London during the attack. Boden was seen running “[toward] danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge,” her family said. At least two other Australians were also injured after being stabbed in the neck.
On Twitter, many criticized the team's refusal to participate, while others said the tradition of holding a minute's silence isn't the way people show respect in countries like Saudi Arabia. However, Gulf countries have held moments of silence as a form of tribute in other instances, such as when former Saudi King Abdullah died.
Would've been nicer if our opposition showed some respect & lined up on the centre circle during the minute's silence. Not hard. #AUSvKSA— Anthony Siokos (@AnthonySiokos) June 8, 2017
It's misunderstood, even if the victims were in Riyadh or Dubai, They will not stand for a minute's of silence— ??? ??? (@2aziz_) June 8, 2017
Apparently, you do. https://t.co/w685bdJ1BJ— Eillyas (@whypersist) June 8, 2017
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— PoloLine (@Pololine) January 23, 2015
Regardless of whether this is or isn't part of their tradition, it's heartbreaking to see such a simple gesture of solidarity not being embraced by members of a sports team, especially now that Saudi Arabia has been under heavy criticism for its deadly attacks against the starving people of Yemen.