Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was accused of disrespecting AFCON, Africa and the players from the continent and the German got upset while defending his comments.
Liverpool beat Porto 2-0, gave a talented 18-year-old his debut and made it through the game without any fresh injuries, yet Klopp still had to deal with criticism after the game.
A journalist accused him of disrespecting AFCON and Africa by referring to the tournament as a ‘little’ competition yet Klopp said he meant his words to be ironic and not taken literally.
‘I think it’s an insult to the players, an insult to the fans, an insult to the people on the continent and I think you owe the continent an apology.’
Klopp was understandably shocked by the question and immediately replied: ‘I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t mean it like that, I don’t know why you understand it like that, to be honest…’
The journalist then rebuked: ‘That was what you said, I listened to the presser and you said the continent in Africa [is little], that is what you said.’
Klopp then defended his comments: ‘I didn’t mean it like that, come on. So I was not even close to it being the idea in my mind that I want to talk about the African Cup of Nations as a “little tournament” or the continent of Africa as a little continent, not at all.
‘I said “oh there’s a little tournament in January” and I didn’t mean a little tournament, I was just saying it’s still a tournament, it’s ironic. It’s still a tournament, a big one. We lose our best players to that tournament…
‘I know that I would never think like this. I don’t understand why you thought this to be honest, but that’s really not OK as I would never do that. But that is it now.’
It is clear that Klopp was simply saying there is still the small matter of AFCON in January, highlighting the fact that he will lose three high-quality players for a month.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita will head off for ACON at the end of December and might not play another Liverpool game until the start of February, depending on how far their respective nations go in the tournament.
One thing is clear, Klopp has the utmost respect for his African stars and is under no illusions how important Africa is to the global game of football.
The Reds would be nowhere without Mane and Salah and, as Africa’s best players, they fly the flag for Liverpool just as much as they represent Africa’s quality in Europe.