‘It was ironic’: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp clarifies ‘little’ AFCON comment

Liverpool are set to lose Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita during the tournament early next year

Alex Pattle
Thursday 25 November 2021 14:38
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Jurgen Klopp has played down a comment he made about the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) last weekend, saying it was meant ironically.

On Saturday, Klopp seemed to express frustration with the timing of AFCON, at which Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita are set to feature in the new year.

Of the tournament, which runs from 9 January until 6 February, Klopp said: “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.”

Following Liverpool’s 2-0 group-stage win against Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday, a journalist suggested to Klopp that the Reds’ coach had offended Africa, its people and players with his comment.

“I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t know why you understand it like that,” Klopp replied, per Sky Sports.

“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.”

Salah is set to represent Egypt at AFCON, while fellow forward Mane will step out for Senegal, and midfielder Keita will feature for Guinea.

Klopp continued: “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 okay, 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.”

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