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Saudi Arabian Football Federation says sorry amid anger over snub for London victims at Socceroos game

ABC News logo ABC News 09/06/2017 Dan McCulloch
Socceroos players observe a minutes silence prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Saudi Arabia. © Getty Images Socceroos players observe a minutes silence prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian football bosses have issued an "unreserved" apology after their players failed to properly observe a minute's silence in honour of London terror attack victims at last night's World Cup qualifier against the Socceroos in Adelaide.

When the stadium announcer called for a minute's silence to honour the victims of last weekend's attack, including Australian women Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelenak, the Socceroos on the field lined up at the centre circle with arms on their teammates' shoulders.

Their opponents from Saudi Arabia, however, milled about separately on the other side.

The team spread out to various parts of the field, with captain Osama Hawsawi appearing to call for them to stand still.

But, once the period of silence commenced, Hawsawi was apparently the only Saudi player not standing still.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) said it "deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offence caused" by the players' actions.

"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," a statement read.

"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."

'There's no excuse here,' Albanese declares

The statement came after Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese teed off on the visiting players on morning television.

"That was a disgraceful lack of respect for not just the two Australians who were killed, one of whom was a young South Australian, but also all of those victims of that terror attack in London," Mr Albanese told The Today Show.

"There's no excuse here. This isn't about culture. This is about a lack of respect and I thought it was disgraceful." Football Federation Australia (FFA) reportedly issued a statement saying the Saudi team had flagged that players would not stand together because to do so would be "not in keeping with Saudi culture".

"Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held," the FFA said, according to reports.

"The FFA was further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field."

Typically, FIFA representatives meet with officials from both teams and the referee a day before a World Cup qualifier to discuss all game protocol issues, including plans for a minute's silence.

Australia ended up winning the match 3-2, leaving it and Saudi Arabia tied with 16 points in their qualifying group. Japan also has 16 points but has a game in hand.

Tomi Juric scored two goals and Tom Rogic added the third for Australia in Adelaide.


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