The excitement generated by Jordan Henderson’s summer move to Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia has not yet faded. When the 33-year-old midfielder played in the English national team’s friendly against Australia ( 1-0 ) last Friday, he had to listen to repeated boos at Wembley.
Coach Gareth Southgate had already expressed his displeasure about it immediately after the game, and now Henderson himself also expressed his opinion. At first, he claimed that he “didn’t really” know why he was booed. Only after a reporter’s tip did he say: “If people want to boo me because I’m playing in another country, that’s fine. Everyone has their opinion about playing in Saudi Arabia.”
Henderson has been a public supporter of the LGBTQ community in recent years and has faced a lot of criticism after moving to a country where homosexuality is punished. He himself had shown understanding for the anger and was convinced that his change was something “positive”. “Whether people believe us or not is up to them,” said Henderson. “But when I play for England nothing changes. I give absolutely everything.” That’s why the boos were “naturally disappointing.”
“I think it will be a special tournament”
Most recently, Henderson even publicly promoted the hosting of the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia in a video and was further offended by it. “These are exciting times for them as a country and I think it will be a special tournament if they get it,” he said on Sunday. “I’ve been there for two months and there have been no problems with fans or anything like that. If we look at Qatar, it was a good tournament. I think the fans enjoyed the tournament and I think that in Saudi Arabia they didn’t will be different.” Henderson described the World Cup being awarded to Qatar as “shocking”.
Although Henderson is not nearly as challenged in the Saudi Professional League as he was previously at Liverpool FC, he should have his place at the 2024 European Championship pretty secure. He’s not worried about his physique anyway. “I feel as fit as ever.”