Football became Jordan Henderson’s life when he joined Sunderland AFC at just eight years old, and it has been ever since. His parents committed to keeping him in the game – no matter what else was going on – and he is reaping those rewards now.
“I’ve always been close to my dad, even though my parents split up when I was six. It was a tough time,” the 31-year-old Liverpool captain reflects.
“But I suppose football brought me closer to my dad, because the time I got to spend with him was when he was taking us to train and taking us to football.”
Henderson now has three kids with his wife Rebecca Burnett – daughters Elexa (born in 2014) and Alba (2015), and son Myles (2020) – and, aged just two, his youngest has already shown an interest in the beautiful game.
“He’s kicking the ball around, he will run and kick the ball at the goal,” says Henderson. “It’s so nice to spend time with the kids and play football with them in the garden.”
Elexa is getting more and more into the game, too – even collecting Match Attax football cards. “My girl has started playing now and enjoys it.
I am going to try and get out and watch the Women’s Euros over this summer, because she is asking questions and getting involved in it now.”
Henderson knows how big an impact sport can have in early life, which is why he’s supporting the McDonald’s Fun Football programme – aiming to get kids into football by providing over 10 million hours of coaching in parks and playgrounds across the UK over the next four years.
After the disruption of the pandemic, Henderson suggests it is vital to “get kids back playing football together, socialising and enjoying playing football with different people”.
He continues: “It’s probably the biggest sport in the country – everybody can enjoy it. Even going to the games, getting kids to go and watch football is really good.
Hopefully, this programme can really get kids involved, and there can be some special talent coming from the next generation.”
Henderson is a big advocate for “the discipline it can give you” and says: “You’re following instruction. I think a lot of good players that I’ve seen went down different paths – some of them were so talented, but they didn’t have the discipline.
“I think football can help with that discipline. Being in a team environment and having responsibility for other people is really special, and the team ethics you need are not only important in football – but in life.”
And Henderson understands there are different pressures on kids nowadays – making the sport even more important.
“Football is an excellent exercise for kids, and getting them outside to naturally do an activity, that’s important.
I’ve got kids myself – TikTok and being in the house on the iPad is fine at times, but I do like them getting out, exercising and doing stuff.”
Jordan Henderson and McDonald’s Fun Football is calling on parents to kick start their child’s football journey.
Visit McDonalds.com/Football and follow @FunFootballUK on Twitter and Instagram to find your nearest session