Jordan Henderson I'm fine with being booed for playing in Saudi Arabia, if that's what people want.


Jordan Henderson I’m fine with being booed for playing in Saudi Arabia, if that’s what people want.

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It had to be one of the most challenging moments in Jordan Henderson’s career. He was met with boos from his own fans at Wembley on Friday night, donning the England jersey, an honor he has always cherished. What stung even more was that the boos weren’t a result of his performance on the pitch but were instead linked to the choices he had made, becoming a part of his identity.

After leading his country to a 1-0 friendly victory over Australia as the captain, despite the disappointing crowd reaction, Henderson maintained a composed demeanor. When questioned about the audience’s response, he stated, “Not really. I’m not sure what the reaction was, to be honest.”

Acknowledging the vocal disapproval during his substitution, Henderson added, “It’s not nice, your own fans, if they were booing. But people have got their own opinions. Whenever I bump into anyone on the street, it’s always been positive stuff and nice things said. It won’t change who I am and what I do for this team and for my country. I give absolutely everything every time.”

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While Henderson isn’t the only English player to transition to the Saudi Pro League — with Demarai Gray and Andre Gray also making moves — his high-profile status, combined with his past advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, has intensified the spotlight. However, his move to a country where homosexuality is criminalized has seemingly altered the perception of his advocacy, raising questions about the authenticity of his previous actions.

When asked if he comprehended the fans’ reaction, Henderson responded with a challenge, “Erm, not really. I don’t know… do you?” Suggesting that the boos might be related to his decision to move, he expressed, “If people want to boo if I’m playing in a different country, that’s fine. Like I said, everyone is going to have an opinion when I’m playing over in Saudi. I’ve spoken in the past about the reasons for that. Whether people believe me or not is up to them.”

Perhaps it would have been simpler for Henderson if he had openly stated that a lucrative contract had enticed him long ago, securing the financial future of his and his family’s generations. Nevertheless, he has consistently maintained that he did not discuss his financial package until after agreeing to the transfer.

Henderson had previously hinted at his potential to influence attitudes in Saudi Arabia, and he echoed that sentiment, saying, “I’m playing football in a different country in Saudi where I want to try to improve the game on the pitch, but also things off the pitch as well.”

However, when pressed on what exactly this meant practically, he emphasized, “The whole league. The football. I’m not a politician. I’m not going to get into politics. All I’ve ever done is concentrate on my football and try to help people that have asked for my help. When I’m out there, I’m solely focused on playing football, striving to enhance the league, my team, and winning games.”

Henderson appeared to soften slightly when confronted with criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging, “I haven’t been surprised by that because I can understand the reasons in what they’re saying. I look at it from a different point of view, obviously. But I can understand it and I’ve got to take that on the chin.”

The impact of his decision on Henderson’s England career remains uncertain. Despite being part of a disjointed performance against Australia with a second-string side, the 33-year-old continues to contend for a spot on the Euro 2024 squad, particularly due to the limited midfield alternatives.

“I feel as fit as I ever have,” Henderson affirmed, attributing his condition to the challenging environmental conditions he faces in Saudi Arabia. He emphasized his experience in the game, expressing confidence in his abilities despite the transition to a different league.

Gareth Southgate staunchly stood by his midfielder, consistent with his reputation for unwavering loyalty to his players. “He is a role model in the squad, I don’t understand it,” Southgate asserted. Nevertheless, Southgate’s steadfast stance on moral issues, akin to Henderson’s situation, left observers wondering about his genuine sentiments.


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