Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool only ‘exceptional’ will do against Bayern Munich

Mohamed Salah will need to be at his best if the Reds are to get through to the last-eight. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019

Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool only ‘exceptional’ will do against Bayern Munich

  • Reds draw 0-0 against German giants in first leg.
  • Klopp only too aware of threat Bayern pose.

MUNICH: Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool they will need to be at their brilliant best if they are to beat Bayern Munich and reach the Champions League quarterfinals.
Three weeks ago the Reds drew 0-0 at home to the German giants to leave the tie poised on a knife-edge heading into the clash at Bayern’s Allianz Arena. Klopp’s side know a score draw will send them through on away goals, but he is only too aware that their hosts are feeling confident, unbeaten in all competitions since the start of February and on top of the Bundesliga table for the first time this season.
That all adds up to one thing for the Liverpool boss — a “normal” performance will not be good enough to go through.
“We are strong enough to give them a proper game and that’s the only thing you can expect in a situation like that, in a good situation,” the German said.
“That’s what I’m thinking about — how can we cause them problems they have never had so far against other opponents?
“They are, of course, really strong opponents. But if we are at our best we can be exceptional. But we have to be, actually — if we play a normal game there we have no chance and then we should go out.
“But if we can push ourselves in a special mood and play a
proper football game, then
we have a proper chance and that’s all I need.”
Liverpool looked back to somewhere near their best in their 4-2 win over Burnley at the weekend. That followed four draws in six matches. Ironically a draw could well be enough for them tonight, but despite not winning the first leg at Anfield Klopp admitted the result was not all bad, saying: “With a 0-0 everything is clear. You have to win the game. That’s what you always want. In this specific case, you can win the game with a draw as well, but it’s all clear — we have to play a really good game.”
Having coached Borussia Dortmund — Bayern’s big rivals in Germany — he knows all about the side’s most potent weapon Robert Lewandowski having coached him at Dortmund. The Polish striker is the top scorer in the competition this season with eight goals, but Klopp has told his team they cannot focus solely on Lewandowski.
“Robert is a world-class striker, no doubt about that,” he said.
“The more you can avoid the passes and crosses to him, the better it is. That’s what we are all working on and that’s what we have to work on actually.
“Of course, it’s not only Robert.
“What makes it so exciting, you go through the Bayern team and think, ‘Wow, they are really strong’ and then you think, ‘Ah, we are not too bad as well!’ That’s cool.”
One thing for sure is that Bayern will attack more than they did at Anfield when they showed a defensive discipline not normally associated with the German club. Niko Kovac has backed his players to do what they need to do the make the last eight.
“If we want to progress, we have to win,” the Bayern boss said.
“It won’t be 0-0. We will see support in the stadium that we haven’t seen for a long time.
“These are the games all of my team, especially a player like Franck Ribery lives for. He still has it in him to leave his mark on games like this.”

Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019

Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)