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Jurgen Klopp gives a much admired answer to a question he was not asked

The English Football Premier League is one of the world’s great sporting tournaments, and as the current season now nears its end, Liverpool have a huge lead of over twenty points over their nearest rival club. This is, despite a recent stumble in Liverpool’s form, an amazing achievement. (Our own Patrick Crozier, a Watford supporter, might enjoy commenting on that stumble.) This all comes after Liverpool, last season, won the European Championship. All football fans, whether paid or unpaid, are now inclined to regard everything that Liverpool’s hugely engaging and obviously very smart manager Jurgen Klopp says or does as evidence of his all-round human wonderfulness.

Personally, I greatly prefer following football on television and on the internet to actually going to games, which are too noisy, expensive and time-consuming for my tastes and for my fading eyesight. I prefer classical concerts at the Wigmore Hall. (I recently attended this concert there. Stu – I’m now deploying a verbal device that Americans often like to use when they really want to ram their point home, often by swearing at this point – pendous.) Nevertheless, from a virtual distance, I too am a football fan, and so I share the general admiration for Jurgen Klopp.

The above explains why Klopp is getting so much admiring attention for what he recently said about the coronavirus. Klopp was, MarketWatch reports:

… responding to a reporter who asked if the famed Liverpool coach is concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.

Here is how Klopp responded to this question:

“What I don’t like in life is that a very serious thing, a football manager’s opinion is important,” Klopp explained. “We have to speak about things in the right manner, not people with no knowledge, like me, talking about something. People with knowledge will talk about it and tell people to do this, do that, and everything will be fine, or not. Not football managers, I don’t understand that.”

Cue an orgy of admiration for what a stellar human being Klopp is, for saying something so very, very wise. What a guy!

But, perhaps because I only admire people like Klopp from a virtual distance, I am able to dissent. I think that this was an excellent answer by Klopp, to a question that he wasn’t actually asked. He wasn’t asked what he thinks will be the future progress of the coronavirus. He was merely being asked whether he was worried about it. Any conscientious football club manager must now be anxious about how the coronavirus might affect his club in the weeks and months to come, and to be listening out carefully to learn what derangements look like being imposed upon the world and the country in general, and upon professional football in particular. Klopp doesn’t have to be an expert on infectious diseases to be worried about the spread of one of these devilish things while it is still spreading and still killing people, and more to the point while it is causing sporting authorities to ponder doing things like cancelling all heavily-attended sports events for the duration of the coronavirus problem. He just has to be a semi-intelligent person who is keeping half an eye on the news.

To the actual question that Klopp was asked, a simple Yes would have sufficed. Yes, he is worried, as are most other people, and worried precisely because he, Jurgen Klopp, does indeed not know what the coronavirus will do next. He might then have added a few words to the effect that he was already thinking about how future games might be affected, and about what he would be telling his players if cancellations and general disruption of sport in the UK, along the lines of what is already happening in Italy, do shortly ensue.

The comments Klopp made on the habit of regarding people who are celebrated in one field as experts in other fields are very sensible, or would have been had that been what he had been asked about. But I also dissent somewhat from that. Not in the sense that I regard successful football managers as experts on all other things. It’s more that I reckon you can also overdo the reverence for the pronouncements of “experts“. Experts can often be very right, but they are often wrong. The rest of us ought at least to be willing to question the supposed experts, and then ask ourselves if their answers make as much sense as they are claiming.

11 comments to Jurgen Klopp gives a much admired answer to a question he was not asked

  • staghounds


    “No, I am too busy worrying about SARS, Bird Flu, and Swine Flu.” and

  • Paul Marks

    An “argument from authority” is one of the classic errors identified by philosophy. Instead of presenting evidence and logical reasoning an “argument from authority” is someone presenting their rank or qualifications and then demanding that people accept what they say as the truth. “I am a Professor of History at the University of Cambridge – therefore when I say Nelson never went to sea, you must accept it”, or “I am a Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford – therefore when I say higher government spending is good for the economy you must accept it”, or “I am Archbishop of Canterbury – therefore when I say that the Anglican Church was Institutionally Racist after World War II, you must accept it”. These are demands for submission on the basis of rank and credentials – they are not logical arguments backed up by evidence.

    This does not mean that a person who has not studied a subject should not show humility – but deferring to “exports” is indeed falling victim to the “argument from authority” which is not a real argument at all.

    So the correct response from the Association Football Manager (assuming he has not studied the subject – he may have done) would, perhaps, not be “yes”, it would be “I do not know”.

    Although the question was itself odd – in that it was not (say) “what do you think the chances are of the wide spread of this disease in this country?” it was are you “worried” about it – which is a classic “feels over reason” type question. I am not interested in what this man is “worried” about – or any other emotion he may have.

  • I think there is a case for saying that Klopp answered the question the interviewer intended to ask, if not quite literally the one the journalist actually uttered. To the literal question, “Are you concerned…?”, Klopp’s literal answer would be “Yes” for the reasons the OP explains – but if he had just said that one word, and then waited for the next question, the journalist would have felt (understandably) short-changed. Obviously (again for the reasons the OP explains), the question is really “Are you worried in the context of the club, upcoming fixtures, etc., etc.” and Klopp’s answer means that he expects the medical authorities to say whether football matches should or must be held with only televised audience or not held at all, etc., etc. He does not intend to worry in the sense of wasting valuable thinking time by second-guessing those authorities on a subject where they are the experts and he is not. (Klopp notes experts can be wrong – “everything will be fine, or not“.)

    (Pace Dominic Cummings, medicine is a subject in which true expertise is at least possible. How far decisions like “stop holding football matches” are strictly medical or involve areas where, again pace Dominic Cummings, true expertise is not possible, is another area of discussion.)

    I think the OP is quite right to say his answer has broader implications, and he was aware of them when saying it, but I argue he was also answering the question he was asked, if you allow the context to supply the extra words that the journalist omitted (defensibly omitted because the context supplied them).

  • NickM

    This sort of thing happens all the time. Einstein was allegedly offered the first presidency of Israel. Apparently he turned it down saying he was too naive for politics.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Paul Marks

    Being worried may be an emotional response, but it is often also entirely rational. I think you are making the mistake of thinking that reason and emotion are two separate phenomena, whereas they are typically but two different ways of talking about the same thing.

    I also feel that you think this, think that you feel this, and feel that you feel this.

    Rationality is like an engine. Emotion is like the petrol without which the engine cannot run.

  • Lee Moore

    Herr Klopp answered the question sensibly. Precisely because a large number of people do imagine that a movie star’s political opinions are worth listening to, and an equally large number of people think that’s a ridiculous notion, simply answering “Yes” risks overexciting the first group and annoying the second group.

    The wise thing to do is to avoid the question. Which is what he did.

    There is no rule that you have to answer every question a journalist puts to you, however dumb or tendentious, still less any rule that you have to answer straightforwardly, without considering how that answer will be taken, or mistaken.

    btw I liked Anthony Hopkins’ answer when asked a question outside his acting bailiwick :

    “People ask me questions about present situations in life, and I say, ‘I don’t know, I’m just an actor. I don’t have any opinions. Actors are pretty stupid. My opinion is not worth anything.”

  • Patrick Crozier

    At risk of lowering the tone I will comment on Liverpool’s stumble but then again, you did ask.

    For those of you who don’t know before the game Liverpool were top of the table and Watford in the bottom three. Liverpool fans didn’t give Watford a prayer and neither, for that matter, did Watford fans.

    And we won 3-0. And, no, the result did not flatter us. And we overcame the biggest ever points gap in Premier League history. And one of our players, Sarr, is now a star. And he almost scored a hat-trick. And we’re out of the bottom three. And Arsenal love us because they get to keep their Invincibles tag. And Manchester United fans love us, too, for some reason. And Leicester fans love us because we have their old management team. In fact everyone loves us except Bournemouth.

  • monster

    So, Klopp and Liverpool were worried about corona virus when really they should have been worried about Sarrs….

  • Rudolph Hucker

    @Lee Moore

    btw I liked Anthony Hopkins’ answer when asked a question outside his acting bailiwick :

    “People ask me questions about present situations in life, and I say, ‘I don’t know, I’m just an actor. I don’t have any opinions. Actors are pretty stupid. My opinion is not worth anything.”

    I like that. If only he could nip round Hollywood and tell Leonardo DiCaprio & Co.?

  • Chester Draws

    I think there is a case for saying that Klopp answered the question the interviewer intended to ask, if not quite literally the one the journalist actually uttered.


    But there is also a case for him to be saying “Please stop asking me questions like this.”

  • Rob

    Point of pedantry. Liverpool won the Champions League, what used to be the European Cup. The European Championship(s) is for international teams, played every four years.