They came from all directions. Some had travelled miles. Others had traversed continents.

John came from San Francisco. Oscar from Sydney. Pieter from Amsterdam. Chia-hao from Taipei. Bob from Brighton.

They came on a whim. They came on a mission. They came to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.

A once in a lifetime.

This is not a story of Hajj - the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca which attracts more than 2 million people the holiest city in Islam, just inland from the west coast of Saudi Arabia, by the Red Sea. This, is the story of Hendo. A pilgrimage, the first of it’s kind in the Middle East, drawing those from around the world to Dammam, a city in the east, overlooking the “Arabian Gulf”.

For Dammam is the home of the esteemed Al-Ettifaq FC, whose captain is Jordan Brian Henderson - or "Hendo" to friends and fans alike. And Hendo has remarkably achieved more in six months than prophets, politicians, or demi-gods alike have throughout all of time.

In July, 2023, Hendo arrived in Dammam with the sporting ambitions of growing the game he loved, of growing the league to one of the best in the world. He also arrived in Dammam with the noble ambition of continuing his allyship with the LGBTQ+ community by convincing the 36 million people of Saudi Arabia that Love is Love — in his September interview with The Athletic, Hendo declared “Having someone with those views and values in Saudi Arabia is only a positive thing.”

So, whether more than 2 million of the LGBTQ+ community descend upon Saudi Arabia in 2025 for the second annual pilgrimage of Hendo remains to be seen, but it is undeniable that Hendo achieved one of his most central ambitions.

In that same interview with The Athletic, he proclaimed "We can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar”. From his cosy new canal house on the Keizersgracht in central Amsterdam, a mere 200 meters from the Homomonument, Hendo sits. Having just torn up his contract with Al-Ettifaq FC and signed for Ajax, Hendo surveys his new surroundings, and, enjoying his evening tea and stroopwaffle, he Googles the nearest beach.