Jordan Henderson quits Al-Ettifaq FC after just six months

Jordan Henderson during a Saudi Pro League match between Al-Ettifaq and Al-Ittihad at Al Ettifaq Stadium on November 24, 2023 in Al Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Footballer Jordan Henderson has reportedly quit Al Ettifaq after moving to the Saudi Pro League in July 2023. 

The England midfielder, who played 19 times for the Saudi side, has reached an agreement to terminate his contract after only six months. Henderson will leave the team’s training camp in Abu Dhabi and return to England, with Dutch team Ajax in talks to sign the former Liverpool star, Sky Sports reported.

Henderson faced a backlash from the queer community after his move to Saudi Arabia, with fans saying they were “appalled” by him moving to a country where it is illegal to be gay after years of dedicated LGBTQ+ allyship. 

During his career, the footballer became well-known for supporting the LGBTQ+ community, including backing Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, and being nominated for Football Ally at the LGBT+ Awards in 2021.

In a statement on Twitter/X, members of Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ fan club, Kop Outs, said they were “appalled and concerned” that the star would move to a country which punishes homosexuality with the death penalty.

“Kop Outs have valued the allyship shown by Jordan Henderson,” a statement at the time read. “We are appalled and concerned that anyone might consider working for a #sportswashing operation for a regime where women and LGBT+ people are oppressed and that regularly tops the world death-sentence table.”

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Liverpool player Jordan Henderson wearing a rainbow captain armband
Jordan Henderson is heading home after just six months in the Saudi Pro League. (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Henderson later apologised to the LGBTQ+ community, claiming it “really, really hurt” for the community to criticise him after his years of allyship.

“I can understand the frustration. I can understand the anger. I get it,” he told The Athletic. “All I can say is that I’m sorry they feel like that. My intention was never to hurt anyone.

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“I’m not going to sit here saying: ‘Why are they criticising me?’ I understand it. These are all the things I was thinking about, and I do care.

“When I hear stuff like: ‘You’ve turned your back on us’, that hurts. I have family and friends in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Henderson, who has played 81 times for England, has not yet publicly made a statement about his reported move back to the UK. He joined Al Ettifaq for a fee thought to be in the region of £12 million ($15 million) after 12 years at Anfield. He was said to be earning £350,000 ($443,000) a week in Saudi Arabia.

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