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comment Jurgen Klopp’s forceful intervention on the poor vaccine uptake in the Premier League was timely and brave

The Liverpool gaffer has done sport a service by propelling the vaccination issue onto the back pages and the news bulletins


Jurgen Klopp has given his opinion on footballers who refuse to get the Covid vaccinations. Photo: Reuters

Jurgen Klopp has given his opinion on footballers who refuse to get the Covid vaccinations. Photo: Reuters

Jurgen Klopp has given his opinion on footballers who refuse to get the Covid vaccinations. Photo: Reuters

As so often, when the conversation submits to hysteria, Jurgen Klopp is the one who sounds like the adult in the room.

The Liverpool manager's calm, reasoned and articulate take on Covid vaccination uptake in Premier League dressing rooms underscores, yet again, the German’s standing among the most impressive figures in contemporary life.

Fearless, persuasive, unafraid to address the issues so many of his peers flee from, Klopp brings a rare gravitas, charisma, and intelligence to the public forum.

His natural-born inclination to lead is at the core of why he is such a perfect fit at Anfield.

Geographically, Liverpool may reside on English territory, but culturally, politically and philosophically, the city regards itself as something of an outlier and outsider, an independent republic.

Ignored, even mocked, by successive Downing Street regimes, it looks elsewhere for governance.

From Toxteth to Hillsborough, it is a city that has fumed as 'Official' England spat great gobs of disdain into the Mersey churn.

So, Liverpool requires the manager of their most storied institution to be something more than a coach. He must be a North Star, a guiding light, a voice for the community he pilots.

Klopp gets this. To borrow a lovely phrase from the writer James Gheerbant, he is “plugged into the emotional circuitry” of the club he has led for almost six years.

His aura, communication skills and emotional intelligence make Klopp a Teutonic facsimile of Bill Shankly.

He is Shankly's natural successor. A shepherd to the flock.

Of course, like every manager, he can lapse into one-eyed pronouncements on refereeing decisions or fixtures schedules or the tactics of opposing teams.

But on the macro level, in 'Big Picture' land, he is invariably a portrait of wise eloquence and effortless compassion.

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On Brexit, on Donald Trump, on social issues or the Super League or when he empathised with Irish Liverpool fan Seán Cox, he is habitually cerebral, bursting out of the bubble in which so many football people are eternally cocooned.

You can disagree with his take yet still applaud his candour and the courage of his conviction.

It helps that he has an abundance of those alpha male genes, gifting him the charm and star quality that seizes an audience.

Listening to Klopp in the public domain makes it is easy to imagine how he draws the best from players, inspiring them to fulfil their potential.

His tactical sophistication is well documented, but his superior man-management, along with a rare messianic presence, were equally important factors in ending Liverpool’s 30-year title wait.

Klopp’s forceful intervention on the poor vaccine uptake in many Premier League dressing-rooms was timely and brave.

He could have dodged the question and made his life easier. Instead, he confronted the issue, inviting opprobrium into his world.

His words rivalled Mo Salah’s masterwork of performance art for the most eye-catching weekend flourish by a Liverpool employee.

Essentially, Klopp – whose mother died from Covid 19 last year - confronted the anti-vax movement with evidence and deconstructed conspiracy theories by seeking out expert advice.

And he suggested that non-vaccinated players who argue it is their “freedom” not to be jabbed might as well contend it is their right to drink and drive.

“Where did I get the knowledge from, that I think it makes sense to get the vaccine. I called doctors that I’ve known for years, and I asked them, ‘What should I do?’ That’s how I usually work: when you don’t know about something, you call a specialist and the specialist tells you.”

While Klopp says Liverpool are 99pc vaccinated, only seven clubs report more than 50pc of their players are double jabbed.

Some 130 players, or 25pc of the 527 registered to play in the Premier League, have tested positive for Covid.

Several managers who are alarmed at low vaccination rates at their clubs are reportedly unwilling to speak out for fear they will be accused of interfering with individual liberties.

Paul Pogba, Tyrone Mings, Kai Havertz and Adam Lallana are among the high-profile figures who experienced deeply unpleasant and enduring Covid experiences.

Non-vaccinated players increase the likelihood of continued outbreaks hitting the sport.

In America, unvaccinated NBA players face bans on playing in the cities of New York and San Francisco (and subsequent fines from the league for each game they miss) under local Covid-19 rules.

There is now a debate about whether vaccination status and a willingness to receive the jab might be written into future contracts for professional athletes, potentially influencing player salaries.

Klopp has done sport a service by propelling the issue onto the back pages and the news bulletins.

Thoughtful and courageous, it was yet another reminder that it is not just in the manner he has reawakened Liverpool as one of the great powers that the 54-year-old bestrides the modern stage like a colossus.

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