Al Ettifaq attendance figures make mockery of Jordan Henderson comments

Al Ettifaq fell to a 1-0 loss to Al Riyadh in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

Full back Khalid Al-Shuwayyi scored the only goal of the game in the Saudi capital to hand defeat to Steven Gerrard's side and leave them seventh in the table after ten games of the 2023/24 season.

However, defeat was not the real humiliation for Al Ettifaq, who are of course captained by Jordan Henderson.

The real sting was that, despite fronting a team containing Henderson, as well as former Liverpool teammate Gini Wijnaldum and ex-Premier League star Demarai Gray, only 696 fans were reported as in attendance at the 22,000-capacity Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium for the game.

Earlier this season, just 976 fans turned up to see former Celtic man Moussa Dembele score in a 3-1 win for Al Ettifaq away at Abha.

For comparison, 1,124 went to see Marine 2-1 Lancaster in the Northern Premier League (England's seventh tier) on the same weekend.

Things have been somewhat better at home for Gerrard, Henderson and co. According to Transfermarkt, Al Ettifaq have averaged just over 7,000 at the 26,000-capacity Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam, so far this season – slightly under the league average of 8,400.

Though Pro League bit hitters like Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli regularly get over 20,000 spectators in through the doors, the crowds (or lack thereof) for Al Ettifaq are a far cry from those experienced by the ex-Liverpool stars in their Anfield heydays.

The manner and destination of Henderson's exit over the summer left a bitter taste for many Liverpool fans and the idea that the former Reds captain moved to the Saudi Pro League for purely footballing reasons appears laughable.

READ MORE: Jordan Henderson – Liverpool legend with a tainted legacy

Speaking to the Athletic in a now infamous interview after his transfer, he claimed that the 'project' rather than the money was a motivating factor in his decision to leave Anfield.

Asked why he didn't consider another Premier League club over a move to Saudi Arabia, he said at the time: "I wanted something that would excite me ... And this opportunity with Stevie (Gerrard) in a totally different league and totally different culture was something completely different, that maybe it would excite us in terms of the project that was put in front of us, in terms of the league and using my experience to try to help with that in many different areas and feeling that people value.

"It’s nice to feel wanted. I know Stevie really wanted me. I know the club really wanted me to go and they wanted us to try and build over the next few years — something that is here to stay and be one of the best leagues in the world."

© Proshots - Jordan Henderson

© Proshots - Jordan Henderson

He went on to add: "People will see this club come with loads of money and he’s just gone, 'yeah, I’m going.' When in reality that just wasn’t the case at all. People can believe me or not, but in my life and my career, money has never been a motivation. Ever.

"Don’t get me wrong, when you move, the business deal has to be tight. You have to have financials, you have to feel wanted, you have to feel valued. And money is a part of that. But that wasn’t the sole reason. And these possibilities came up before money was even mentioned.'

Henderson – who has been criticised for selling out on his support of the LGBTQ+ community by moving to a country where homosexuality remains illegal – was booed by England fans during his return to Wembley for the Three Lions' friendly win over Australia earlier this month.

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