Feature Photo: FourFourTwo
When Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp responded to a journalist’s question – on whether his club was worried about the possible effects of Coronavirus – by suggesting that opinions of famous people don’t matter, and then saying “Why me? I wear a baseball cap and I have a bad shave,” his response was immediately hailed – by many – as brilliant.
"It’s not important what famous people say. People with knowledge will talk about it … not football managers."
— CNN (@CNN) March 5, 2020
This reaction was on March 3, 2020, on the back of his team’s elimination by Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Exactly a week later, on the eve of Liverpool’s clash with Atletico Madrid, Klopp doubled down on his remarks, referring to the healthiness of the players on the pitch and that football is just a small part of society, therefore journalists shouldn’t be asking him about his worries regarding the spread of the virus.
Klopp was not happy about being asked about the coronavirus again pic.twitter.com/hbFKP5grEd
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 10, 2020
In the same press conference, however, something changed in the German’s head that made him approach the topic with more wariness and reflection than he did before.
“I’m not sure when it was last week or so, that I don’t think I should be asked about this, but it’s different,” Klopp murmured hastily as he answered another question about the threat of the Coronavirus.
“It’s not about me as a manager, it’s me as a human being… There are some things more important than football, and I think we realize that in this moment, and what we need is time to find a solution for that.”
On Friday morning, UEFA announced that the matches scheduled for next week in the Champions League and Europa League will be postponed. Members of Europe’s soccer-governing body will reconvene again on Tuesday to decide on other footballing tournaments, such as this summer’s European Championship.
The Premier League, the Football Association, the English Football League have suspended all professional soccer in England until at least April 3. The Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese leagues, along with the MLS in the US, have all suspended their respective competitions for another three weeks. By that time, a solution to the global pandemic will hopefully be found. If not, we will have to wait and see what soccer’s organizing bodies decide on doing next.
The Premier League, FA, EFL and WSL have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 13, 2020
So, it is a phenomenon that is affecting everything and everyone. The purpose of this article is to argue against Klopp’s initial response to the pandemic, where he said his opinion doesn’t matter.
Klopp’s opinion does matter. The journalists did not ask Klopp about his medical opinion on COVID-19, nor did they consult Klopp’s economic solutions to the closure of vital global stock markets. They simply asked him: “Are you worried?,” to which his answer should’ve been: “Yes!”
“Put your hands away you f**king idiots” pic.twitter.com/JkZYgb7XJh
— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) March 11, 2020
When journalists in these situations ask for comments from managers, they are looking for a rational response from the opposite side. Something like “we hope this gets resolved quickly” or “we are currently monitoring the situation with the players and we will let you know if something develops.”
Fortunately, Klopp has come to the realization that he can – and should – be talking about the Coronavirus, not as an expert on the matter, but just as a widely known public figure whose words and actions carry significant weight around the world, certainly more than the average Joe, like yours truly, for example.
On Friday, the charismatic, high-flying, fist-bumping manager issued a message to Liverpool supporters across the globe.
Jürgen Klopp has today issued the following message to supporters.https://t.co/nBeTrwILJs
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 13, 2020
“I don’t think this is a moment where the thoughts of a football manager should be important,” Klopp began, “but I understand for our supporters they will want to hear from the team and I will front that.”
“I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things. Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.”
After talking about the importance of being there for each other and protecting one another, offering thoughts and prayers to everyone who was affected by the disease, including rival clubs, Klopp recognized the role he occupies in the world, and that, even though he’s not an expert, he should be speaking on the issue.
“Yes, I am the manager of this team and club and therefore carry a leadership responsibility with regards to our future on the pitch. But I think in the present moment, with so many people around our city, the region, the country and the world facing anxiety and uncertainty, it would be entirely wrong to speak about anything other than advising people to follow expert advice and look after themselves and each other.”
“The message from the team to our supporters is only about your well-being,” the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund manager said at the end of his plea.
“Please look after yourselves and look out for each other.”
“You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Thank you, Jürgen. That was the brilliant response we wanted you to say from the beginning.