The Saudi Arabian men’s national football team is facing heavy criticism for its players’ conduct during a match versus Australia on Thursday night.
The match, which was hosted by Australia, saw the Saudi Arabian players fail to line up for a minute of silence in honor of the London attacks victims.
The Saudi Arabian federation has since apologized for the incident in an official statement, stating that it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologizes for any offense”.
The Saudi Arabian team faced its Australian counterpart in the World Cup qualifier match that ended with a 3-2 win for Australia.
During the warm-up prior to the match, the announcer called for a minute’s silence for the London bridge attacks, which occurred earlier this month and killed 8 victims, including two Australian young women.
In the video footage from the match, Australian players are seen honoring the tribute by lining up in formation, while the Saudis remain scattered in the field and some of them continue their warm-up exercises.
Meanwhile, some Saudi players stopped playing and observed the minute of silence, such as Salman al-Faraj, who is seen standing with his hands behind his back.
The video has drawn backlash against the Saudi team, which was accused of disrespecting the gesture.
According to The Guardian, football officials were informed beforehand that the tradition contradicts with Saudi culture, but that the Saudi players would respect the custom.
Australia’s Football Federation (FFA) said that it had been “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.”
FFA noted that the local broadcaster, Fox Sports, was also informed in advance.
Saudis apologise over ‘disgraceful’ snub of minute’s silencehttps://t.co/4iZtQqv2GE
After the issue stirred controversy, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation released a statement apologizing for the players’ behavior and explaining that they “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 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,” the statement reads.
“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,” the federation added.
What an awful lack of respect, very unusual for the global football familiy https://t.co/EEXyFZkRoA
While the bulk of the reactions to the incident was negative, some social media users defended the team, saying that a minute’s silence was not observed in Saudi culture.
Refusing to observe a moment of silence is not the norm for Saudi Arabian footballers. In December 2016, Saudi team, al-Ahli Saudi FC, stood for a minute’s silence before a Qatar Airways Cup match against Barcelona, according to The Guardian.