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Africa Cup of Nations

Should Klopp apologize after controversial ‘little’ Afcon statement?

5:54 PM GMT 26/11/2021
20210828_Jurgen Klopp_Liverpool
The German coach has been at the centre of a storm regarding some apparently misconstrued comments

Jurgen Klopp has faced stick this week after his comments on the Africa Cup of Nations caused much controversy on social media.

The Liverpool manager claimed to have meant no harm when he described the continental competition as a ‘little tournament’.

So far, fans have been divided in their verdict (link to the fan piece), with some considering the comments to be offensive and others accepting the German coach’s explanation that it was an attempt at irony.

In all fairness, such a statement could pass as ‘normal’ elsewhere and no one would bat an eyelid, but it has prompted ire among some members of the African football fraternity.

Why did Klopp’s statement cause so much controversy?

There are a number of reasons to see why Klopp’s words—even if well-intentioned—hit the wrong note with African supporters.

For starters, the Afcon has never really commanded as much respect as the European Championships or the Copa America would do outside the continent.

The fact that the continental competition takes place in the thick of the season—clashing with the Premier League, for example—has arguably undermined its legitimacy in the eyes of some, with top flight managers in the past denigrating the tournament’s scheduling as a response to having to lose some of their key players.

Klopp made that statement in response to losing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to the competition in January, and given the context, it can be understood why he was prioritising Liverpool and seeing the Afcon as something of a distraction.

Ultimately, the majority agree that Klopp didn’t exactly have bad intentions, but for others, his words came across as disdain and disrespect.

Perspective, both of the speaker and the listener, is also critical.

Would this statement have caused as much fuss if it was said by a Pitso Mosimane? Or would it have just gone unnoticed?

Ultimately, the drama and controversy of Wednesday will be forgotten in the days and weeks to come.

However, this episode has proved to be an intriguing glimpse into how words innocently spoken by a non-native English speaker can—on first listen—offend so many and lead some to suggest ill-intent on the part of the German head coach.

by Kolade Daniel