The Saudi Arabian national soccer team, in Australia today for a World Cup qualifying match, did not observe the pregame moment of silence the Australian soccer federation put together to commemorate the victims of last weekend’s terrorist attacks in London. Here’s video of the moment:
As you can see, while the Australians stood together at the center circle during the moment of silence, some of the Saudi players walked around the pitch, taking their pre-kickoff positions. Adam Peacock, an Australian television presenter who was at the stadium for the match, reported on Twitter that during the moment of silence itself, all but one of the Saudi players stood still in their positions—the exception being the team’s captain, who continued to stretch and jog.
According to the Australian soccer federation, Saudi Arabia did not object to the moment of silence itself, but did make it clear before the game that their team would not be participating on cultural grounds:
“Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” the Australian federation said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “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.”
Peacock also had this to say about the negotiations before the match between the Australian soccer officials and their Saudi counterparts:
Two Australian citizens were among the eight people killed in the attacks in London last Saturday, and two more Australians were wounded. While the Saudi Arabian officials explained that moments of silence are not part of the culture in their region of the world, the Guardian did find examples of Saudi Arabian and other Gulf countries’ athletes observing them before sporting events in the recent past.