(Reuters) – England manager Gareth Southgate said it made no sense to boo Jordan Henderson after fans turned on the midfielder during Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Australia.
Henderson was named England captain for the match, with the 33-year-old, who joined a Saudi Arabian club earlier this year, playing 62 minutes before being substituted to boos from fans at the Wembley Stadium.
Henderson moved to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool on a three-year deal in July. The switch to Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal, made headlines as Henderson has long been a supporter of LGBT people.
“I really don’t understand it. He’s a player who has won 79 caps for England and his commitment and what he has delivered for England is exceptional,” Southgate told reporters.
“He’s a brilliant role model for all of the group in his professionalism and his approach. Some people deciding to boo, I really don’t understand what that is for. Come on – we play Italy on Tuesday and let’s get behind this team.”
After the Saudi Arabian Football Federation announcedthis month it would bid to host the 2034 World Cup, Henderson expressed support for the bid in a video.
Asked if that could have prompted England fans to voice their displeasure, Southgate said: “What has that got to do with supporting a guy that is wearing an England shirt?
“I don’t really know where we are heading with everything. I’m hugely impressed with the impeccable values and decisions that everyone in our country is making now.
“I know what’s created it and it’s happened but it defies logic to me that you would give a player – who is putting his heart and soul into playing for England – why you would boo him?”
England next take on Italy in a key Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)