CAPE TOWN – Jurgen Klopp is driven by passion and, to navigate his way through the harsh, unpredictable terrain that is modern-day professional football, he has just one tool: his common sense.
The presence of the amiable yet charismatic Liverpool manager was the highlight of a fund-raising event organised by Second Division club Hout Bay United at the Bay Harbour Market on Wednesday night.
It was a fantastic evening for the Hout Bay United Football Community, a new club on the block formed with the stated intention of uniting the disparate communities of Hout Bay through the sport of football.
It’s the reason why the C in the name stands for community rather than club.
In a region where the very rich and the very poor live cheek by jowl, the Trust which operates the club is attempting to instil some pride in the community.
It wants to do its small bit in uniting the three communities of Hangberg, Imizamo Yethu and the Valley.
It wants to break down barriers, bring people from all walks of life together and create opportunities by unlocking the latent energy of the area.
“I love the idea behind this club,” said Klopp of Hout Bay United. “It’s a big honour to be here.”
Such was the attraction of the charismatic Klopp that people flew in from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg to be part of the occasion, and forked out a hefty R2 000 entry fee to have an opportunity to interact with the popular Liverpool manager.
Klopp had the audience mesmerised, often funny, supremely philosophical in his ideas about the game, and just a general all-round great guy.
Not once did he come across as a famous football manager – mostly, he was just the regular guy-next-door, the bloke you just love to take out for a beer or three.
Frank and forthright, Klopp was quite happy to reveal his thoughts on the game of football.
“Managing or coaching a football club is not an easy job,” said Klopp. “I started at a young age when I was playing for the second team of Eintracht Frankfurt, and I coached the youth team at the same time. It was just something that I had… I always knew I wanted to be a football manager.
“I’ve never really thought about a managerial style. I’ve always believed that the most important skill in life is common sense – it just makes life easier.
“I may not be intelligent, but I am skilled in common sense. In football, you have to entertain, you don’t want to play boring football – I guess other clubs are quite used to that,” he laughed.
“But I love the spectacular, the game going up and down, I love the challenges. I love football players, they are just so much more skilful than I was.
“Sometimes, in a game, I have to say, ‘how did he do that’. But, as a manager, the way I can help is in a tactical sense.
“For me, when my team goes 1-0 up, I want them to try to score a second goal. I may not be the smartest manager in the world, but I am the most passionate.”
Klopp assured long-suffering Liverpool fans, desperate for their team to win the English Premiership again, that it would happen.
He didn’t say when, but promised that it would.
As for the unsavoury touchline feuds between managers, he said it wasn’t in his nature to get involved.
“There are two teams in Europe owned by countries, so it’s always going to be difficult to win the Champions League,” said Klopp.
“As for the Premier League, with all the problems people say we’ve had at Liverpool – we can’t defend, we can’t score goals – yet we aren’t too far off from second position on the log. We will work on it, we will improve and we will stay calm.
“For me, it’s just important that you don’t read all the sh*t on social media, then it’s much easier to stay calm. But let me tell you that my aim is to win the league title with Liverpool.
“As managers, we don’t call each other in the week or anything – maybe just David Wagner (Klopp’s best friend, the Huddersfield manager). But I have no problem with anyone.
“You cannot win a football match in the dug-out. I believe that the coaching area is like Las Vegas – what happens there, stays there.
“I want to win because I want to win, I don’t want to win because I am more interested to see the other team lose. I am only focused on my team, I don’t have the time to focus on others.
“Yes, there is pressure in managing a club – one week you are a genius, and the next you have no clue about the game.
“For me, it’s easy to be nice, it’s easy to remain down to earth. I love my family, I enjoy time with them, and as long as my family is healthy, I am fine. I love what I do, but I don’t exist only for football.”
Asked about players’ egos, the celebrity culture in football, and about how players sometimes think they are bigger than the game, Klopp said he didn’t concern himself too much with that.
As far as he was concerned, the game itself quickly spits out such players.
“As a player, you have to be confident, but not too confident,” he said. “You have to do your best, but you cannot do it alone. This game of football will educate you and it will kick you out if you want to do it on your own.
“Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi are all nice lads, they appreciate what the game has done for them. But if you want to go it alone, people in the stadium will see it, and then they won’t want to see it anymore.”
The essence, though, at the root of Klopp’s approach is his simplicity. He sees the game of football in the same way he views life.
And, much as you would tackle life’s challenges, so too a manager or a player has to grapple with football’s vicissitudes.
“In football, hard work pays off, and you will get better,” said Klopp. “A mistake is not important when there are others in the team who are there to help.
“I believe that if you try to get better, you will – it is that way in football, and it is that way in life.”
As for Bafana Bafana, as they head into Friday night’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane (7pm kickoff), Klopp had some bad news for the SA national football team.
Asked whether he had any advice for Bafana on how to stop Liverpool’s flying Senegal winger Sadio Mané, Klopp responded: “No chance. If I knew how you could stop him, I would tell you.”