Criticism over Saudi move 'really hurt' - Henderson

5 months ago 44
Jordan Henderson runs with the ball on Al-Ettifaq dutyJordan Henderson made 492 appearances for Liverpool before his summer move to Al-Ettifaq

England midfielder Jordan Henderson says he was "really hurt" after being criticised for joining Al-Ettifaq.

His move has been criticised by some LGBTQ+ campaigners, as same-sex sexual 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.external-link

"There can be a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity around me as a person. And that was difficult to take. 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."

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. That's what I think we're all trying to fight for here in terms of inclusion and everything."

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's going to 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."

More to follow.

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner

Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever before - follow your team and sign up for notifications in the BBC Sport app to make sure you never miss a moment

BBC Sport banner footer

Read Entire Article