Moment of Silence Held for Israel-Hamas Conflict at England vs Australia Match following Scathing Israel Football Association Statement
Wembley Stadium honors victims of Israel-Hamas conflict with a period of silence and black armbands during England's friendly against Australia.
In a poignant moment of unity, Wembley Stadium fell into a hushed silence to pay tribute to the victims of the Israel-Hamas conflict before England's friendly match against Australia on Friday. Both teams donned black armbands as a symbol of solidarity.
Prior to kick-off, a message promoting peace was displayed on the stadium's big screens and broadcasted over the PA system. The message also urged support for the Red Cross appeal, which aims to aid those affected by the ongoing conflict in the region.
The pre-match message conveyed the following: "Tonight, we remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine. Our thoughts are with them, as well as their families and friends in England, Australia, and all the communities affected by this ongoing conflict. Tonight, we stand for humanity and an end to death, violence, fear, and suffering."
The Football Association (FA) faced controversy for their decision not to illuminate the Wembley arch in Israel's colors for the game. This choice drew criticism from the UK government and the president of the Israeli Football Association, who demanded an explanation from their English counterparts.
The Wembley arch has previously been lit up on various occasions, such as displaying the blue and yellow of Ukraine after the country was invaded by Russia in 2020, and illuminating the French flag following terrorist attacks in 2015.
Over the weekend, Hamas militants carried out a series of deadly attacks, resulting in the deaths of over 1,200 Israelis. In response, Israel formally declared war on Hamas, leading to airstrikes on Gaza that claimed the lives of at least 1,300 individuals.
The period of silence at Wembley Stadium was widely respected by the sold-out crowd, while the FA explicitly stated that replica kits or flags representing Israel or Palestine were not allowed inside the stadium.
Prior to the match, Lucy Frazer, the UK culture secretary, expressed her disappointment with the FA's decision not to illuminate the arch. She voiced her concerns on X, stating, "I am extremely disappointed by the FA's decision not to light up the Wembley Stadium arch following last weekend's horrific terrorist attacks in Israel, and I have made my views clear to the FA. Words and actions matter. The Government is clear: we stand with Israel."
The president of the Israeli Football Association, Moshe Zuares, also criticized the decision, describing it as "disappointing" in a statement posted on X. Zuares attempted to explain his viewpoint to his English colleagues multiple times in the days leading up to the match but felt they were unwilling to understand. Now, he believes it is their responsibility to provide an explanation.
When asked about the FA's stance, England manager Gareth Southgate expressed his sadness for those who lost loved ones in the attacks. He acknowledged the complexity of the Middle East situation and the difficulty of fully understanding or commenting on it with authority. Southgate emphasized that the FA likely consulted numerous individuals to ensure an inclusive approach and make the right decision.
Personally, Southgate shared that he has friends in both the Jewish and Muslim communities, recognizing that he cannot fully comprehend their experiences. He acknowledged the challenge of doing justice to such a complex subject in a brief timeframe. Ultimately, Southgate believed that the FA aimed to act in the best interest of all parties involved.