Former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is under fire for his move to Saudi Arabia side Al-Ettifaq. The midfielder recently departed Merseyside for the Middle East and will receive a massive pay raise in the process. Reports have suggested that Henderson is set to earn around $900,000 per week to play in the Saudi Pro League. The England international previously raked in around $180,000 each week to play at Liverpool.

Henderson was a strong supporter of the Rainbow Laces campaign during his time with the Premier League club. The program helps promote equality and diversity within the sport. The England midfielder even publicly spoke about the campaign ahead of a Liverpool matchup with Leeds in October.

“I have regularly worn rainbow laces and today will be no exception because this kind of visible support can only have a positive impact,” Henderson stated in his program notes. “It also sends the powerful message that football is for everyone and the more of us who can take this message back into our homes, workplaces and daily lives the better.”

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has strict laws against homosexuality. In fact, it is illegal to be gay in the country. Offenders can be sentenced to brutal punishment, including being beaten, imprisonment, and even the death penalty. According to Sky Sports, Al-Ettifaq has already taken a color photo of Henderson donning a rainbow armband and turned it black and white.

Retired Germany international hits back at move

Thomas Hitzlsperger, a former German international, questioned Henderson’s decision to jump ship and join a Saudi club. Hitzlsperger came out as gay following his retirement as a player. The former Aston Villa, Stuttgart, and West Ham midfielder was the most high-profile soccer player to make such an announcement.

“So, Jordan Henderson finally gets his move to Saudi Arabia. Fair play to him, he can play wherever he wants to play,” Hitzlsperger posted on his official Twitter account. “Curious to know though how the new brand JH will look like. The old one is dead! I did believe for a while that his support for the [rainbow emoji] community would be genuine. Silly me.”

LGBTQ+ groups displeased with Henderson move to Saudi Arabia

Liverpool’s official LGBTQ+ fan group, Kop Outs, also declared that they are “hurt” over Henderson’s decision. “Jordan Henderson was a true captain and true leader for Liverpool on and off the pitch,” stated the organization. “We know he did much to promote inclusion. He stood out as a principled footballer. We are therefore very disappointed by his decision and the hurt and division it has created.”

Henderson has already joined up with his new club and began training. The Saudi side is currently finishing up their preseason preparations ahead of the 2023/24 campaign. Henderson’s first official match will come against Al Nassr in mid-August.