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Really Hurt Me – Henderson Replies Critics Over Move To Saudi Arabia

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Really Hurt Me - Henderson Replies Critics Over Move To Saudi Arabia

England midfielder Jordan Henderson says he was “really hurt” after being criticised for joining Saudi Arabia Club, Al-Ettifaq.

Henderson, who moved to the Saudi club from Liverpool in July, has been a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

His move has been criticised by some LGBTQ+ campaigners, as same-se@x se@xual activity is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

“My intention was never, ever to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities,” Henderson told the Athletic.

“I do care about different causes that I’ve been involved in, and different communities… I do care. And for people to criticise and say that I’d turned my back on them really, really hurt me.

“All I can say is that I apologise, I’m sorry that I’ve made them feel that way. But I haven’t changed as a person.”

The 33-year-old wrote a long piece for the Liverpool matchday programme in November 2021, expressing support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

With his Saudi switch, Henderson has reunited with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard, who was appointed manager of Al-Ettifaq in July.

Henderson said: “I’ve gone above and beyond to help [the LGBTQ+ community]. I’ve worn the laces. I’ve worn the armband. I’ve spoken to people in that community to try to use my profile to help them. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.

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

Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ fan group Kop Outs urged Henderson to “stand by your words as a professed ally & champion of #LGBT+ rights, of women’s rights and of basic human dignity” after he agreed the move to Saudi Arabia.

The group has reacted to his latest interview with a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: “This sounds more like an attempt to rebuild his ‘brand’, sorry isn’t good enough, actions speak louder than words.”

Henderson said he would not rule out wearing rainbow laces in Saudi Arabia, insisting the gesture aligns with his values, but does not want to be disrespectful.

When his switch to Al-Ettifaq was announced, the club released a welcome video on social media with a montage of Henderson’s career, but it appeared that his rainbow armband had been greyed out.

“I didn’t know anything about it until it was out,” Henderson said. “It’s hard for me to know and understand everything because it is part of the religion.

“So if I wear the rainbow armband, if that disrespects their religion, then that’s not right either. Everybody should be respectful of religion and culture.”

Talking about what persuaded him to head to Saudi Arabia, Henderson said he was attracted by the prospect of trying to grow the game he loves in another country and said nothing would change by criticising another country from afar while burying “our heads in the sand”.

Henderson added: “I think people know what my views and values were before I left and still do now. And I think having someone with those views and values in Saudi Arabia is only a positive thing.”

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