The Socceroos have found themselves caught in the middle of intense controversy over whether UK sporting bodies should pay tribute to Israelis killed in Hamas attacks.
Australia will take on England in a friendly at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday morning (AEDT time) in the first major international sporting game held in England since the attacks.
Previously, Wembley’s iconic arch has been lit up in the colours of flags of countries to show support following a tragedy or major event.
But England’s Football Association (FA) has said the arch won’t be illuminated for the Socceroos vs England game, with a moment of silence and reflection to be observed and players to wear black armbands instead.
There will also be a ban on flags in the stadium, with spectators only allowed to display flags of the countries competing in the game.
In a statement, the FA said: “On Friday evening, we will remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine.
“Our thoughts are with them, and their families and friends in England and Australia and with all the communities who are affected by this ongoing conflict. We stand for humanity and an end to the death, violence, fear and suffering.
“England and Australia players will wear black armbands during their match at Wembley Stadium and there will also be a period of silence held before kick off.
“Following discussions with partners and external stakeholders, we will only permit flags, replica kits and other representations of nationality for the competing nations inside Wembley Stadium for the upcoming matches against Australia and Italy.
“The British Red Cross have also launched an emergency appeal to support the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the region, and we will promote this appeal within the stadium on Friday.”
Making the matter even more complicated is the fact the Socceroos play Palestine in an upcoming World Cup qualifier on November 21.
Some believe Wembley should light up its arch in the blue and white of Israel’s flag, while others believe any tribute that takes a side will only risk causing unrest in the stadium.
Former UK conservative politician Nigel Farage said: “This is pure cowardice…I’m sorry to the FA but you can take the knee all you like but this makes you total, utter hypocrites.”
The UK Telegraph wrote: “Displaying the colours of the Israel flag could be viewed as taking sides in a decades-long conflict in the Middle East but it appears certain that, at the very least, there will be a moment of silence or reflection before kick-off on Friday in tribute to all those to have died.
“The precise nature of that, as well as the potential for anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian chanting in the crowd, will be discussed with England’s opponents, Australia.”
Wembley’s arch was lit up in the colours of Ukraine’s flag after Russian’s invasion last year, while other London landmarks including 10 Downing St have projected Israel’s flag after the recent attacks.
Former FA chairman Lord David Triesman told the UK Telegraph: “There has been an abject unwillingness to take any action which might upset the wealthy Middle East states which now wield such power in football finances.
“And what might upset them is what is unwelcome to the militias they support. It was the same indulgence of regimes like Vladimir Putin’s. Anything can be tolerated so long as football can still hear the rattle of the cash tills.”
“It’s inexplicable that they don’t see this in the same light that they saw Ukraine. That can only be because they don’t think it’s important or significant. What is there to think about?
The Wembley arch has been lit up to mark:
— The 2015 Paris terror attacks
— The 2016 terror attacks in Belgium
— A day of reflection for those who died of Covid,
— For the NHS during the pandemic
— For a match against Albania after Remembrance Day,
— Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
— Respect for LGBT rights at the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
— The death of Brazilian football icon Pele
Socceroos out to break 20-year drought
The Socceroos played out a 2-2 draw against Mexico last month and will be looking to continue their strong form that saw them reach the round of 16 at last year’s FIFA World Cup.
The Aussie men haven’t beaten England since 2003 when the likes of Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell caused a huge 3-1 upset in London 20 years ago.
They sit 23 spots below their fourth-placed hosts in the FIFA world rankings.
But coach Graham Arnold insists his side will just have victory on their minds thanks to the stirring speech from Ange Postecoglou, who has led Tottenham to the top of the Premier League in his first season since arriving from Celtic.
“The speeches that Ange said yesterday were very similar about what we’ve been saying for years with doing it for the kids in Australia, the nation and your family and people who are close by and the supporters,” Arnold told reporters.
“I know one thing is that they will run until they drop, the energy will be there and they’ll put in the performance of their lives.
“We aim to win. We’re not going out there to lose or draw the game, we’re going out there to win the game. It’s the culture that we bring.” Australia’s most recent meeting with England saw the home side claim a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light in 2016.