Ukraine v England preview | Football Digest
England fans are reportedly planning to stage a protest if Jordan Henderson takes to the field for the Three Lions on Saturday during their Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine. Henderson, previously a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, came under fire for making the switch from Liverpool to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq in July.
The Saudi state, which now pays Henderson’s reported staggering £700,000-a-week wages, has a poor human rights record and criminalises LGBTQ+ activity, with homosexuality carrying the death penalty. Henderson went above and beyond to be an ally of the community during his time at Liverpool and has been widely criticised for his hypocrisy in moving to the Middle East.
According to the Daily Mirror, England’s biggest LGBTQ+ fan group, Three Lions Pride, are planning to express their disgust at Henderson’s inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s 25-man squad by protesting at the Ukraine game on Saturday. Co-chair of the group, Joe White, told the British tabloid that supporters will turn their backs on the 33-year-old, in a symbolic gesture to how he has done the same to his LGBTQ+ fans.
“Having spoken to some of our members, there was a real sense of disappointment. There was a question on whether people were intending to boo and the original intention was to try to focus on being supportive of the team,” said White.
“But if we wanted to make a stand, then turning our backs is quite a symbolic move, particularly given how the community has felt. Since his interview, that may well change. I would imagine people are more likely to boo or show an audible distaste.
“There are members attending who we’ve spoken to and told the position of the group, which is to turn backs. If they want to boo that’s a personal decision. The issue with booing when you’re part of the England fan movement, it could also turn other fans against you who might not know the reasons behind it.
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“That was why our position as a group is turning backs. [It] is done in a way that still respects the England team, but makes the point quite clearly that we don’t have respect for Jordan anymore.”
Henderson recently spoke to the British press for the first time since his Saudi switch in a wide-ranging interview with the Athletic. The former Liverpool midfielder attempted to justify his move by suggesting he had joined Al-Ettifaq to help grow the Saudi Pro League and rejected the notion he had moved simply for monetary gain.
When quizzed on the backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, Henderson responded: “I have so much sympathy and the last thing I want to do is to upset you or anyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. All I’ve ever tried to do is help. And when I’ve been asked for help, I’ve gone above and beyond to help. 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. 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 me. I do care. I have family and friends in the LGBTQ+ community.”
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