Gareth Southgate took charge of England with minimum fanfare but has quickly earned respect as England manager. His ability to maintain calmness under fire from national press coverage shows great promise for future success in his role.
But the Three Lions manager must now decide how best to deal with Manchester City star Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq; his move triggered widespread criticism including from Pride in Football.
Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s reported move to Dammam-based Al Ettifaq has caused much disquiet among fans and commentators. Henderson was an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ+ rights during his time as captain for both Liverpool and England; accepting an attractive offer from a country where same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by death may be seen as betrayal of that position.
As Euro 2024 draws closer, this move could also have an effect on Henderson’s England prospects. Much like Kante, Benzema and Ronaldo before him, Henderson could find himself left on the bench while England strives to qualify for World Cup 2026.
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Gareth Southgate’s response
Gareth Southgate is often depicted as an authoritarian figure who suppresses creativity and discourages players from thinking for themselves. Yet this man possesses empathy.
England manager Gareth Southgate has acknowledged Jordan Henderson’s decision to relocate to Saudi Arabia – which prohibits homosexuality – has caused much discussion, while also emphasizing his worth as part of England. Southgate believes he can still be an asset on international teams such as England.
Southgate recently told Sky Sports in an interview that he chooses players based on their performances rather than club affiliation. He has stated his willingness to consider players from Saudi Pro League; additionally he refused to rule out future moves for Henderson or rule them out completely; believing it’s important that players are prepared for whatever comes their way.
Henderson’s decision to join Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq Football League where homosexuality is illegal has drawn criticism from various LGBTQI+ rights organizations who had once applauded his efforts for equality. Henderson wrote in 2021 on Twitter, “When something clearly wrong occurs and another human feels excluded you must stand shoulder to shoulder with them and oppose this injustice,” which has drawn the ire of several groups who once applauded his support of their rights.
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Henderson has since found himself discredited, accepting a deal worth an estimated PS700,000-a-week in a country where same-sex sexual activity is illegal and could result in the death penalty. Many who once supported him now believe this act has compromised his integrity.
Gareth Southgate has expressed support for Henderson, yet that might not be enough to placate those who have criticised his choice.
Henderson’s decision to accept Al Ettifaq’s lucrative offer has caused much dismay among fans and commentators alike. Henderson had previously supported LGBTQ+ people on social media and Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign ahead of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, where their laws on homosexuality allow for flogging or even death; as well as being accused of placing restrictive limits on women and suppressing political protest.
Although Henderson has received considerable criticism, he should be applauded for making such a courageous move to secure the future of his family. Many other players wouldn’t have taken this initiative under such immense pressure.
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Henderson remains an impressive talent for Liverpool and England under Jurgen Klopp’s system, displaying all of the abilities expected of top point guards such as Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry in NBA play – manipulating defenders while creating opportunities with quick feet and excellent touch to set his teammates up with opportunities. Furthermore, Southgate could give Henderson more advanced roles next season.