Jill Scott has questioned Jordan Henderson’s decision to leave Liverpool for Al Ettifaq as the ex-Reds skipper ended his 12-year stint at Anfield this summer.
Homosexuality remains illegal in Saudi Arabia and Henderson’s decision to move to the country despite previously being vocal against homophobia has been called out by LGBTQ+ groups in the UK. Henderson, however, defended his decision in an interview with The Athletic earlier this week, stating that is still committed to fighting against homophobia despite his move to the Middle East.
Former England Women’s team midfielder Jill Scott feels she wouldn’t be welcome in Saudi Arabia as a gay woman, describing Henderson’s move as a ‘sad situation’. Scott announced her engagement to long-time partner Shelly Unitt in March 2020 and is a renowned personality in the beautiful game, having become the first female footballer to captain England for Soccer Aid in 2023.
Speaking on Channel 4 (quotes via Daily Mail) ahead of England’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine, she said: “In terms of the morals and values, I’m a really big Jordan Henderson fan, he’s a Sunderland lad and really hard-working.
“But for me, the fact that I couldn’t go and watch him represent his team, that’s what doesn’t sit well with me. Football for me is for everyone and the fact that I don’t feel like I would be welcome (to watch him play), that’s a very sad situation.”
England manager Gareth Southgate rallied around Henderson when quizzed on criticism from LGBTQ+ groups, describing the former Liverpool captain as an ‘experienced professional’. He said at his pre-match press conference (quotes via Daily Mail): “I don’t pick the team based on external reaction, but he’s a very experienced professional.
“He is very mature at handling any situation. He’s trained really well this week. His feeling towards that community hasn’t changed. I am sure all of our fans are going to get behind the team when the game starts. I am sure they will get behind Jordan when the game starts as well.”
Henderson played the full game as England were held to a 1-1 draw against Ukraine, starting in midfield alongside Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham. The 33-year-old’s move to Al Ettifaq hasn’t gone down well with fans and pundits alike, but Southgate seems to hold him in high regard, indicating that his long-term future with the Three Lions is not under immediate threat despite moving away from Europe.