|Former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is probably not used to playing in front of such low crowds. — AFP/VNA Photo|
In a futile attempt to relieve the boredom of a bus journey to work the other day, I found myself endlessly flicking through Facebook reels.
Mind-numbing clip after mind-numbing clip of nobodies trying to make a name for themselves by showing me how to fry an egg or make a lampshade out of a turnip.
Then, as if by magic, or fate, I get a pop-up video from the evening of Wednesday, May 8, 2019.
Highlights of the Liverpool versus Barcelona match in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Anfield. Liverpool three goals down after the first game, needing a miracle.
And boy, did they get one.
I won’t bore you with the details of the game, we all know what happened. Liverpool made the impossible, possible.
On that night, the then Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson played out of his skin, cheered on and encouraged no doubt by the 55,212 supporters that damn near rocked the foundations of the stadium that night, playing their part in the victory.
Henderson went on to lift the Champions League trophy with Liverpool that season.
Also in that line-up were midfielder Fabinho and striker Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s Bobby Firmino was injured, but sat in the stadium witnessing what was probably the greatest second-leg comeback in the history of the Champions League.
Gini Wijnaldum came on in the second half, scoring two for Liverpool.
All five of those players have left Liverpool, and currently play in the Saudi Arabia Pro League, earning oodles of cash.
Last week Henderson’s Al-Ettifaq played Al Fayha away from home in a match that finished 0-0.
It was watched by just 610 people.
That has been the lowest attendance at a Saudi Pro League game this season, beating the 696 they lost in front of when travelling to Al-Riyadh last month.
I know the blow of such poor support is incredibly softened by the bulging pay packet Henderson picks up each month, but I’ve got to ask is it worth it? And after all the furore associated with the League when it started splashing the cash, is the bubble close to bursting?
Henderson wasn’t on anywhere near as much money when he played for Liverpool, and all the other European players plying their trade in Saudi have all had huge pay rises, but let’s face facts, none of them were short of money.
I doubt Karim Benzema was living pay check to pay check at Real Madrid before he made the move to Al-Ittihad, and somehow I don’t think Neymar was borrowing a few quid off his mates until payday before he joined Al Hilal.
The powers that be who run the league have a bottomless pit of money to throw at the game.
But luring massive stars to the league is really of no consequence if nobody bothers to attend the matches.
No matter which club he plays for, Henderson will never experience a night like he did when Liverpool beat Barcelona. That was a one-off.
But by staying in Saudi, playing in front of just a handful of supporters, means he’ll never, ever come close to feeling like a real footballer ever again.