Politicians and comedians were left outraged after Saudi Arabia did not observe a minute’s silence for the London terror victims before Thursday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Australia.
That was despite the Adelaide Oval ground announcer calling for silence to honour those who lost their lives in London last weekend, including Australian women Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelenak.
The Socceroos lined up at the centre circle with arms linked when prompted, but some of their opponents moved to their positions, while others appeared to be warming up.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation on Friday issued an unreserved apology for the incident, saying it regretted the failure of “some players” to properly observe the tribute.
Football fans reacted in outrage after the incident, with Football Federation Australia [FFA] issuing a statement saying that “this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture”.
The Saudi apology did not stop the likes of Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese and comedian Dave Hughes condemning the behaviour.
“That was a disgraceful lack of respect, not just for the two Australians killed, one of whom was a young South Australian, all of those victims of that terror attack in London,” Mr Albanese said on Channel Nine’s Today Show.
“There is no excuse here. This isn’t about culture, this is about a lack of respect.
“I thought it was disgraceful. It’s bloody disgraceful, I’m so angry about this.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce added: “I am sure the Saudi government themselves will be having a strong word to them.
“When you are in another nation, you respect the issues that are important to them.
“I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they did not know what they were doing.”
Victorian federal senator Derryn Hinch said their behaviour “should not be forgotten”.
“It is an insult. Saudi Arabia – that is where those terrorists came from,” he told the Seven Network.
Hughes posted on Twitter that in future, the Saudi Arabian football team should be barred from entering Australia.
In Melb during 2015 Asian Cup, Saudi team refused to board bus driven by a woman. They should not be given entry to our country. https://t.co/g2uXqks1CE
— Dave Hughes (@DHughesy) June 8, 2017
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said the players “did not intend any disrespect” in an official statement.
“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offence 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 on 3 June 2017, prior to the World Cup qualifying match against Australia in Adelaide,” it read.
“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.
“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.”
Initially responding to the incident, the FFA reportedly said: “Both the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held.
“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 while taking their own positions on the field.”
The Socceroos won the crucial World Cup qualifier 3-2, with Tom Rogic scoring a sensational 64th-minute winner for the hosts.
Tomi Juric netted a first-half double for Australia, but both of his strikes were cancelled out, leading to a tense second half.