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England's only openly gay footballer calls Henderson's Saudi move 'slap in the face'

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England's only openly gay footballer calls Henderson's Saudi move 'slap in the face'

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Blackpool's Jake Daniels, England's only openly gay professional footballer, has spoken of his disappointment over Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia following his support for the LGBTQ+ community

The England's only openly gay professional footballer has described Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia as a ‘slap in the face’.

Jake Daniels, who plays for Blackpool, last year became the first openly gay active English male professional footballer since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Former Liverpool captain Henderson had been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community before his decision to join Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq, who are managed by Steven Gerrard.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state, leading many to accuse the England midfielder of hypocrisy and of turning his back on the community. Henderson actually messaged Daniels to offer his support after he came out. However, the 18-year-old says that now seems like a hollow gesture.

“He [Henderson] messaged me when I came out. He was backing me and said ‘We’re proud of what you’ve done’. And seeing him move to Saudi, it kind of like, slaps me in my face really,” Daniels told the BBC. “Obviously it was frustrating. But I guess the money pays well, and money must mean more to people.”

Daniels, who made his senior debut for Blackpool in May 2022, said Gerrard had also personally reached out to him following his announcement. He added: “I met him in person and he said ‘If you ever want to get in contact then message me’. But he moved over [to Saudi Arabia]. It was frustrating.”

What do you th

Speaking last month, Henderson said his values “hadn’t changed as a person” just because he was now playing in another country. Saudi Arabia is the sole bidder to host the 2034 men’s World Cup, 12 years after Qatar – where homosexuality is also illegal – staged the global tournament. Daniels says he “wouldn’t feel safe” travelling to such places.

“The World Cup that happened in Qatar, the one that is going to happen in Saudi Arabia, for me if I was there I wouldn’t feel safe, so that’s just putting your football in jeopardy,” he said.

Daniels believes his decision to come out 18 months ago has helped his career. He said: “It has been crazy since coming out. I didn’t think it would blow up as much as it did.

“The reception I’ve had, the people I’ve met, it’s been a crazy experience. Coming out was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m playing better now.”

Daily Star Sunday
 
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