Friday, June 9, 2017

FIFA won’t punish Saudi Arabia after apology for declining minute’s silence

FIFA will not take any action against Saudi Arabia after their national team declined to participate in a minute’s silence in memory of last weekend’s deadly attacks in London. The Saudi football federation said in a statement it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offense caused,” after players appeared to ignore the stadium announcer’s call for a minute’s silence to honour the eight victims of the attack, including two Australians.

The 11 Australian players on the field lined up near the centre circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders, but their opponents from Saudi Arabia stayed on the other side. Video footage appeared to show one Saudi player bending down to tie his shoelace during the minute’s silence.
But FIFA said on Friday it has reviewed the match report and images from the incident and will not issue any sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
“We can confirm that there are no grounds to take disciplinary action,” FIFA said.
       Typically, FIFA representatives meet with officials from both teams and the referee a day before a World Cup qualifier to discuss game-related protocol, including plans for reflections such as the minute’s silence.
The Australia federation, known as the FFA, said Saudi team officials knew about the plan to hold a minute’s silence before the match and had indicated that the players wouldn’t participate, saying the tradition, common at football matches, was “not in keeping with Saudi culture.”
The Saudi federation’s statement a day later said: “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. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked early on Friday about the incident but said while the matter had been raised with him, he had not seen the video.
      The whole world, the whole free world is united in condemnation of that terrorist attack and terrorism generally,” Turnbull said, without directly referencing the match. “The heartbreaking, heartbreaking loss of young Australians in London, [and] of course in Baghdad, and just this week in Melbourne to these murderous terrorists — everybody, everyone should be united in condemnation with the terrorists and love, and sympathy and respect for the victims and their families.”
Senior Australian Labor politician Anthony Albanese described the Saudis inaction as “a disgraceful lack of respect. There is no excuse here. This isn’t about culture,” he said. “This is about a lack of respect.”
Australia ended up winning the match 3-2, leaving them and Saudi Arabia level at 16 points in their qualifying group. Japan also have 16 points but have a game in hand.

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