Jordan Henderson has finally publicly addressed his switch from Liverpool to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq. The England international departed Merseyside for the Middle Eastern club in a deal worth around $15 million. However, the move was not exactly received well from human rights advocates.

Saudi Arabia currently has intense laws against the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in the country. Violators face death if found guilty. Many players jumped ship to join a Saudi side. Yet, Henderson’s move drew particular ire for his ties with the Rainbow Laces campaign.

The organization helps promote equality and diversity within the sport. Players willing to assist the program wear rainbow-colored laces in their cleats during games. Club captains can also don an armband with a similar motif. Henderson was previously a strong ally in the campaign during his time with Liverpool.

Henderson claims to have had second thoughts after completing Saudi move

Speaking in an interview with The Athletic, the English midfielder revealed his second thoughts about the move after receiving backlash. “Every day. It was a difficult time, definitely. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. It was just difficult to make that decision,” stated Henderson.

The midfielder then further addressed his previous ties to the Rainbow Laces campaign. “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,” continued Henderson.

“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 criticizing 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.”

Midfielder denies joining Al-Ettifaq because of money

Along with discussing the backlash, Henderson also talked about why he chose to join a Saudi club. “I’m at the latter stage of my career and I want to be happy playing football. I want to play,” proclaimed the England international. “I don’t want to be sitting on the bench and coming on for 10 minutes in games. And I knew that would have an effect on my chances of playing for England.”

Henderson claimed that the move “excited” him, more so than potentially joining other European clubs. However, he did dismiss accepting the Al-Ettifaq offer because of the money. The midfielder also denied that he was receiving $881,000 per week to play in the Middle East. “No, honestly, the numbers just aren’t true,” said Henderson.

“But again, it had to work out for us financially as well. I’m not saying that it didn’t and I’m not saying, ‘Oh, I’m not on good money’ because it’s good money and it was a good deal but it wasn’t the numbers that were reported. No.”

Despite joining Al-Ettifaq, Henderson retained his place in the England national team. Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate recently selected the veteran to play upcoming fixtures against Ukraine and rivals Scotland.