Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp hopeful HK$30m pitch can cope as rain batters Hong Kong ahead of Premier League Asia Trophy
Reds begin campaign against Crystal Palace at Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday hoping for no repeat of 2013 quagmire
Juergen Klopp admitted the much-maligned Hong Kong Stadium pitch was a concern as his team prepare for the Premier League Asia Trophy, but the Liverpool manager was hoping it would hold up.
The last time the tournament was held in Hong Kong in 2013 there were embarrassing headlines all over the world as the pitch became a quagmire branded dangerous by the competing teams’ managers.
It has been extensively – and expensively – relaid at a cost of HK$30 million, and officials at the Hong Kong Football Association have repeatedly declared their confidence in the new surface.
It held up well for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in April and a friendly between Kitchee and Tottenham Hotspur played the day after a storm in May, though if there is a repeat of the constant rain that plagued the 2013 Asia Trophy, all bets could be off.
“Yeah [it’s a worry],” Klopp told the Post as heavy rain battered Hong Kong, rainstorm warnings were issued and residents told to take necessary precautions.
“What can I say, of course – I’m a football manager, I’m interested in the game, I’m interested in the quality of the game and different things have influence on the quality.
“Players do of course, [and] the pitch is very important, but if it’s bad we can’t change it. We have our first training this afternoon and we’ll see how it is.
“It’s an outside sport so you have to adapt to the weather and for all teams it’s the same. I hope it’s okay and we’ll see.”
Liverpool kick off against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, with the second round of games on Saturday.
With all due respect to West Brom and Crystal Palace and Leicester, the other teams taking part, there’s no question who the biggest draw in town is this week.
Liverpool have not been to Hong Kong since 2007 and their fans were out in force at the airport to greet the team on Monday morning.
More were camped outside and inside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where the team is staying, with a rather overworked member of security doing his best to prevent selfies as players walked through the lobby.
“All I’ve seen of Hong Kong is the airport and the hotel – crazy how different it is!” joked Klopp of his first trip to Asia.
“Actually, it’s probably the highest hotel I’ve ever been in, it’s the first time I’ve seen a helicopter flying and I was higher than it.
“[The fans have been] actually okay, it was nice at the airport.
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“The [craziest] was when we went to Australia [in May], we made a little refuelling stop at Phuket, I think it was 3am their time and there were 40, 50 people.
“They couldn’t reach us, we were on the other side of the window but were going crazy.”
For the players it was off the plane and straight into a host of promotional activities with sponsors, with these tours increasingly more about ‘brand engagement’ than actual football.
“It’s mixed emotions,” said Klopp when asked if he’d rather not be in Liverpool training his players for the coming season than jumping through hoops halfway around the world.
Hong Kong trip a step into the unknown admits Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp as teams arrive for Premier League Asia Trophy
“Of course, yes, I’d like to be on the training ground – but would I like to be earning the same money as they did 20 years ago, no, so that’s not a problem!
“The only thing is everybody takes it so serious – for example if we don’t win the tournament, everyone will be saying, ‘Oh Liverpool are struggling.’
“But we need to handle these circumstances. We still have to play football, but the most important thing is to prepare for the new season.”