The Saudi Arabia national team has come under attack for refusing to join Australia in observing a minute’s silence in remembrance of the two Australians who were brutally killed in last weekend’s terrorist attack on London Bridge as the two nations played out their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Adelaide on Wednesday. Two Australian nationals - Sara Zelenak and Kirsty Boden were among the eight victims of the attack.
Minute's silence arranged, then ignored
The decision to hold a minute’s silence had been approved by both Asian Football Confederation officials and the Saudi team before kick-off. However, Saudi Arabia players nonchalantly milled around as the Socceroos linked arms on the center circle to pay their respects. According to officials from the Football Federation Australian (FFA), Saudi team officials advised that they wouldn’t take part just moments before the match.
“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,” stated an FFA official.
Australian fans not impressed
After the event, Australian fans took to social media, with some bewildered supporters calling on FIFA to sanction the Saudi Arabian team. “I hope FIFA call out Saudi Arabia on the clear lack of respect shown prior to kick-off. Not participating in the minute's silence is disgusting”, wrote one Twitter user.
Nevertheless, several social media users voiced support for the Middle Eastern team, arguing that holding a minute’s silence to show respect for the dead before sporting events was not part of Saudi Culture. “They come from a different culture. They just don’t understand the point of being silence for a minute to show sadness,” one user explained.
Australia edge qualifier in Adelaide
This incident added tension to an already important encounter, as Australia needed a victory in order to keep their hopes of a fourth consecutive appearance at next year’s World Cup finals. Tommy Rogic hit the winner to hand the Socceroos a 3-2 win, and put the team third in Group B, level on points with Saudi Arabia but with a slightly inferior goal difference. Japan top the section with two games left to play and only the top two teams qualifying directly for 2018 Russia.