During the Manager’s press conference last night, International tournaments became a focal point as an angry reporter accused Jurgen Klopp of disrespecting African football when he called the Africa Cup of Nations ‘a little tournament.’
However, the Liverpool boss defended his comments by saying that his intention was misunderstood, and bemoaned the fact that Liverpool will be without key players because of the AFCON tournament at a crucial stage of the season.
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“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.Jurgen Klopp: Sky Sports
Whether the comment was an insult – and clearly for Klopp it wasn’t – does his reframing of AFCON as a tournament not only spell out his frustration at losing his two best players at a crucial stage of the season but also begs the question: Are football clubs competing in elite leagues around the world duty-bound to release their best players to every tournament or friendly regardless of its standing in world football? Or do we ignore clubs’ frustration at this state of affairs, ask them to accept it, and recognise the honour of players who wish to represent their country, regardless?
According to Bleacher Report, the Africa Cup of Nations is ranked as the seventh most prestigious tournament in the World. As many as 24 nations battle it out to become champions of Africa. For those on the African content and their supporters around the world, it is a very big deal.Embed from Getty Images
At the moment AFCON, as we know, is held in January. Could there be a case of moving it to the summer, rather than mid-way through the season? A solution could be that the tournament is played in the gap between the Euros and the World Cup in the summer, and then that way, the issue of the clubs losing some of their players due to the tournament will be moot.
Of course, staging the tournament in summer will mean that the weather could play a vital role, but we have the same situation with the upcoming World Cup final in Qatar, where climate and extreme conditions of heat are due to be managed to make it possible for teams to compete at the correct level. Things arguably could be arranged in a similar fashion in Africa.
Another way of countering the standoff between club and country could be to have a two-week break in the Premier League season while the tournament is going on, similar to the current International break so that the clubs with the most influential African players can minimise absences at club level. Even though recovery time will still be an issue, it could be an answer that satisfies all parties.
Yes, there is the concern that this would prolong the season, but this could be the best solution, particularly if we want to show major importance to all international tournaments.
So what are your views on this topic?