Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was keen to clarify his use of the phrase “little tournament” in reference to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, insisting it was meant as a frustration in an ironic sense and not as an insult to the tournament.
Klopp explained to an offended journalist that his remark – which came after the 4-0 win against Arsenal on Saturday – was a way of expressing his frustration at losing vital players at an important stage of the season.
Liverpool are set to lose Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane for the month-long tournament, which runs from January 9 to February 6.
Replying to a journalist on Saturday, who asked if Klopp was “relieved” they had got through a busy period with “no international break until March”, Klopp laughed and replied: “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.”
Klopp was then speaking in his Champions League post-match press conference after Liverpool had secured a fifth straight win in the competition to beat Porto 2-0 on Wednesday.
After a journalist had said Klopp had insulted the players, fans, people and continent of Africa with the comment, Klopp replied: “I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t know why you understand it like that.
“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.
“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 per cent honest.”