Manager Gets So Angry at Referee He Injures Himself

Jürgen Klopp of the Premier League football club Liverpool was so incensed at a referee that he pulled a hamstring during a tirade

Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on April 30, 2023 in Liverpool, England.
The stakes in the Premier League are so high even managers get hurt
Photo by Andrew Powell / Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Imagine a manager of a top-flight professional sports team being so angry that he actually injures himself while confronting a referee. That actually happened yesterday in the Premier League, where apparently the stakes are really high, even in a late-season match between two teams with no championship hopes. What’s more, the manager in question, Jürgen Klopp of Liverpool, pulled a hamstring by charging an official after his own team scored a likely game-winning goal.

It was the 95th minute of a match against rival Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool had gone up 3-0 early, but slowly squandered the lead. Hotspur forward Richarlison de Andrade equalized with a header off a long free kick with about four minutes left. The game appeared headed for a tie, which in the grand scheme of the Premier League would not have meant much of anything. Not only were both teams far out of league title contention, neither had much of any chance at finishing in the top four of the standings, which would give them entry into the Champions League tournament next season, where their team could earn extra cash.

Still, both squads are battling for a trip to next year’s Europa League competition, a continental tournament for teams a tier below those that qualified for the Champions League in terms of final standings. On top of that, the Liverpool/Tottenham rivalry has heated up in recent years, and both teams have performed below expectations this season. So yesterday’s game was a chance for one of them to save face with a victory.

Most people watching were also probably not aware that Klopp had a long history of strife with one of the match’s referees, Paul Tierney.

“I really don’t know what this man has with us,” Klopp said after the match. “He always says there is nothing but that is not true. The way he looks at me. It’s difficult to understand.”

He later cited a December 2021 tie between his Liverpool squad and Tottenham in which Tierney booked one of Klopp’s players on a red card, which resulted in an ejection, but not the Spurs’s superstar striker Harry Kane, who earlier had challenged a Liverpool player with a spikes-high slide. Klopp said he told Tierney after that match, “I have no problems with referees, only you.”

Klopp added yesterday that in his mind there have been other incidents through the years in which Tierney seemed to have a vendetta against him and his team as well. (The Athletic outlined some possibilities.) He felt the mistreatment continued throughout yesterday’s match, too, particularly when Tierney did not issue a free kick to his team late in the game, which could have prevented the Tottenham equalizer.

But less than two minutes after the Richarlison (soccer players sometimes go by their first names) goal, Klopp’s Liverpool team went back ahead after Tottenham turned the ball over deep in their own end.

Instead of just celebrating a dramatic, likely Liverpool winner, Klopp immediately ran over to John Brooks, the game’s “fourth official,” who announces substitutions and has other duties while standing between team benches. Klopp got in Brooks’ face, screamed and hopped up and down, and when he retreated back to his bench, pulled up lame.

Then, Tierney awarded Klopp a yellow card for his unsportsmanlike conduct.

After the match, Klopp refused to reveal what he said to Brooks or Tierney, explaining he wouldn’t do so because the referees didn’t disclose it themselves. But he didn’t exactly remain mum on the topic either.

“My celebration was unnecessary, which is fair but what he said to me when he gave me the yellow card is not OK,” Klopp said, referring to Tierney.

“It is not OK, we shouldn’t do that. Yes, we are role models. But we are human beings first and foremost. Before you are a role model, you’re a human being and that happens in the moment. But I didn’t say a bad word to the fourth official — not at all — and he wouldn’t have deserved it anyway because he didn’t do anything wrong. I turned around to the fourth official, celebrated in that direction and pulled my hamstring probably in that moment.”

In his diatribe Klopp said he was fairly punished with the yellow card and that he’ll feel some pain due to the hamstring pull. Still, he noted cryptically that Tierney will carry on pain-free.

“I’m already punished, I got a yellow card on top of that. I think he thought I should have got a different punishment but because of the fourth official. It was a yellow card. We have to ask Mr. Tierney what is going on,” Klopp continued. “I don’t want to make the story. I’ve probably said already absolutely too much but I cannot help you now more with the story you write.”

The Professional Game Match Officials Board, which provides officials for English football matches, listened to audio footage of Tierney’s exchange with Klopp when the yellow card turned up and said Tierney “acted in a professional manner.”

The Football Association, the sport’s governing body in England, said it will examine Klopp’s post-match comments. No word on whether or not Klopp had a doctor examine his leg — or perhaps the state of his heart after going so berserk.

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