Jordan Henderson booed by England fans following Saudi signing
Football star Jordan Henderson has responded to being booed by England fans last week as a result of his controversial signing with Saudi Arabia Pro League side Al-Ettifaq.
The former Liverpool F.C captain, who has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion for years, stirred up trouble this summer when it was revealed that he had signed to the Saudi club in a deal believed to be worth around £12 million ($15 million).
The issue, of course, is that Saudi Arabia has a history of being particularly hostile toward the LGBTQ+ community, criminalising both homosexuality and being transgender, and penalising same-sex relations with capital punishment.
Henderson has faced intense criticism for the move, with pundits accusing the football star of tossing away years of allyship for a hefty paycheck.
That criticism continued last week, when Henderson was booed by England fans in Wembley during a friendly match with Australia.
Commenting on the negative response he had gotten from fans, Henderson said that hearing the fans boo him from the stands was ‘disappointing”, but insisted he wouldn’t let it get to him.
“If people want to boo if I’m playing in a different country, that’s fine. Everyone is going to have an opinion over playing over in Saudi,” he said.
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“I’ve spoken in the past about the reasons for that. Whether people believe us or not is up to them.”
Despite his disappointment, the footballer did admit that he wasn’t exactly surprised by the hate he had been getting from fans, and could understand their reasoning.
“I haven’t been surprised by that because I can understand the reasons in what they’re saying,” he said.
“I look at it from a different point of view. But I can understand it and I’ve got to take that on the chin.
“But it doesn’t change the person that I am. I’m playing football in a different country where I want to try to improve the game on the pitch but also things off the pitch as well.
“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 who have asked for my help.
“When I’m going out there, I’m just playing football, trying to improve the league, trying to improve my own team and trying to win games. I do the same when I come here.
“It’s not nice, your own fans, if they were booing. But people have their own opinions. Whenever I bump into anyone on the street it’s always been positive.”
In an interview with The Athletic last month, Henderson said that fans and LGBTQ+ advocates accusing him of turning his back on them “really, really hurt [him].”
He added: “All I can say is that I’m sorry they feel like that. My intention was never to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities where I felt they had asked for my help.
“When I was making the decision, the way I tried to look at it was, by not going, we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar. But then nothing’s going to happen. Nothing’s going to change.”
But, when asked if he would continue wearing rainbow laces while playing in Saudi Arabia, Henderson said that he wouldn’t rule it out, but he didn’t want to “disrespect the religion and culture in Saudi Arabia” either.
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