The manager of Liverpool football club, Jurgen Klopp, has insisted that he did not mean to belittle the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after describing it as a little tournament last weekend.
On Saturday, November 20, 2021, after Liverpool defeated Arsenal 4-0 in a Premier League game, a reporter asked Jurgen Klopp during the post-match press conference whether he was relieved that there would not be an international break until March 2022.
The German tactician responded by saying: “I’ve heard that so often that there’s no international break until March. In January, there’s a little tournament in Africa, I just want to say, and I think Asia is playing games, too – South America as well, great, can’t wait.”
The fact that Jurgen Klopp described AFCON as a little tournament infuriated a reporter at a post-match press conference on Wednesday after Liverpool defeated Porto 2-0 in a UEFA Champions League group game. The reporter claimed that the statement was a slap on the tournament, the continent, the players, and the people from the continent. Hence, he urged the coach to apologize.
However, Jurgen Klopp tried to use the press conference to clarify that he didn’t mean to belittle the tournament and the continent.
He argued that he called the tournament “little” out of frustration that he would be without three of his most important players – Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita, and Sadio Mane from January 9 to February 6 due to the tournament.
“It’s not even close to the idea in my mind that I want to talk about AFCON as a little tournament, or the continent of Africa like a little continent, not at all”, Jurgen Klopp told reporters on Wednesday.
“What I meant is, because people said and if you watch the full press conference if you wanted to understand it in the right way you could have understood it in the right way. I said ‘there’s no international break anymore until March’ and I said: ‘Oh and there’s a little tournament in January,’ and I didn’t mean a little tournament, just like you say it when there’s still a tournament. It’s ironic. There’s still a tournament. A big one. We lose our best players to the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I’m not a native speaker, but if you want to understand me wrong you can do that all the time. I know that I would never think like this. I never understand why you thought like this to be honest, but that’s really not OK, because I would never do that, but that’s it now.
“It was not my intention, but you made something of it. That’s not so cool as well to be 100 percent honest.”
📺 Jurgen Klopp when asked about calling AFCON a “little tournament” last week:— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) November 24, 2021
“I didn’t mean it like that! I don’t know why you understand it like that. Come on…” 🔴 pic.twitter.com/pcLsaYEMPi
December to March of every season in the Premier League is seen as the most important period of the season. Things turn around positively or negatively for most clubs during that period.
Unfortunately, the football governing body in Africa, CAF, agreed to hold the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations between January 9 and February 6, 2022.
During that period, top clubs in the Premier League will be without some of their top players who would have to leave their clubs to represent their countries in the tournament.
Clubs like Leicester City will be without three key players like Daniel Amartey, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Wilfred Ndidi. Manchester City will be without Riyad Mahrez, and Everton will be without Alex Iwobi.
Also, Arsenal could lose the likes of Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mohamed Elneny in January due to the tournament. Crystalal Palace will be without Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew.
While Chelsea will be without their prolific goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy for a month, thanks to AFCON.