Jordan Henderson, former Liverpool captain now playing for Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, expressed his surprise and displeasure over being booed during England’s win against Australia at Wembley last Friday. While he expressed no understanding for their reactions to him moving abroad to Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, he acknowledged fan concerns raised over this decision to relocate there.
As Henderson returned to England’s national stadium for the first time since signing for Saudi Pro League last summer, it was distressing for him to hear jeers when substituted in the 62nd minute. While Gareth Southgate and Kieran Trippier came out in support, 33-year-old midfielder Henderson now faces an uphill struggle regaining public approval.
Henderson has consistently denied that his move to Saudi Arabia was driven by financial considerations; nonetheless, criticism continues. Many view his move as a public relations battle which may prove difficult to win; especially considering his strong support of LGBTQ+ rights which was underlined when choosing to play in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
After earning his 79th cap against Australia, Henderson reiterated his support of Saudi Arabia hosting the 2034 World Cup. When asked by reporters if he understood why Australia booed so loudly he replied “Not really; don’t know.”
Henderson responded when suggested that his boos might be related to his choice of playing location: “If people want to boo because I’m playing in another country, that’s fine with me – everybody will have an opinion over playing in Saudi. I have previously explained my reasons for going over there and whether people believe us or not is ultimately up to them – but when I’m with England it doesn’t alter anything; I give absolutely everything.”
Henderson addressed concerns that she may have let down LGBTQ+ community by saying, “I understand and accept their concerns; however, that doesn’t alter who I am; instead I’m playing football in another country with hopes to improve both on-pitch performance as well as other areas off-field.
While Henderson acknowledged criticisms leveled at him, he made clear that he has never considered himself to be a politician and has focused on football and helping those in need. Henderson pledged his dedication to improving league competition and winning games both at his current club and when representing England.
Henderson acknowledged that the boos from England fans had been hurtful; however, most of the people he encounters in everyday life have generally been supportive.
Gareth Southgate will likely include Jordan Henderson in the squad for Euro 2024 next summer despite recent criticism and backlash, recognizing his leadership both on and off the pitch. Southgate holds Henderson in high regard.
Concerns may exist regarding Henderson’s performance due to the difference in intensity between Saudi Pro League matches and international matches, but he insisted he feels fitter than ever, and has experienced no issues during England training sessions.
Henderson believes Saudi Arabia deserves to host the 2034 World Cup and expects an exciting tournament. His two months in Saudi Arabia have gone smoothly and he expressed confidence about their fans’ experience at games.
Henderson also contrasted Qatar – which he had previously criticized for human rights concerns before the last World Cup – with Saudi Arabia, suggesting that both would offer fans an enjoyable tournament experience.
As fans and pundits follow Henderson’s journey in Saudi Arabia, his commitment to football and views on various issues remain hot topics of discussion among both supporters and pundits alike.