Jordan Henderson’s Saudi move a ‘slap in the face’ to out footballer Jake Daniels
Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia’s club Al-Ettifaq has been described as a “slap in the face” by Jake Daniels, the only openly gay professional footballer in the UK.
Daniels, 18, came out as gay during an interview with Sky Sports last year, making him the first active, male professional footballer in Britain to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
The Blackpool F.C. player is not alone, though, in his disappointment in Jordan Henderson’s decision to transfer to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relations are illegal.
Henderson, 33, has been heavily criticised by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies for agreeing to the Al-Ettifaq transfer after having publicly shown support for the LGBTQ+ community in the past.
Daniels told BBC Sport that, shortly after coming out, he got a private message from Henderson, commending him for his courage.
“He was backing me and said: ‘We’re proud of what you’ve done’,” Daniels recalled.
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“Seeing him move to Saudi, it kind of like, slaps me in my face really.
“But I guess the money pays well, and money must mean more to people.”
Despite making a deal with the Saudi club -estimated to be worth around £12 million – Henderson has insisted that it “doesn’t change the person that [he is].”
The former Liverpool captain has said that the backlash from fans “really, really hurt [him]” adding that his “intention has always been to help causes and communities where [he] felt they had asked for [his] help.”
In his interview with the BBC, Daniels shared that he was equally frustrated by former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, who is now Al-Ettifaq’s manager.
“I met him in person and he said: ‘If you ever want to get in contact then message me.’ But he moved over.”
Daniels says the decision to come out wasn’t easy, since there are very few openly LGBTQ+ high-profile football players.
“It was going into the unknown, that’s what it was,” he shared.
“There were times when I wondered if this was going to affect the moves that I get. If I go out on loan, am I going to be scared to be in a dressing room with older people who might have a different view of gay males?
“There were a lot of things to consider but I was getting injured, I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t sleeping. It just made everything so much worse. I just knew that I had to come out.”
But, to his relief, Daniels was met with overwhelming support from the football community, with pundits predicting that it will hopefully inspire other players and fans to come out.
Daniels says the reception to his coming out has been “crazy”.
“I didn’t think it would blow up as much as it did. The reception I’ve had, the people I’ve met, it’s been a crazy experience,” he said.
“Coming out was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m playing better now.”
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