Setting Fire To A City: Bring the Noise, The Jürgen Klopp Story by Raphael Honigstein

 

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Bring the Noise: The Jürgen Klopp Story
Raphael Honigstein 
Nation Books, 2018

 

It would be safe to say that Jurgen Klopp is not only one of the handful of elite football managers in the world but also, arguably, currently the best manager in the world. We would certainly have a lively discussion but in all honesty only four or five names would be bandied about. Thus any literature analyzing, critiquing, or simply exploring how those elite managers not only came to the game but practice it is coveted by all football supporters. 

Raphael Honigstein’s biography of Klopp, Bring The Noise, will certainly become essential reading for all football fans. The biography, which Honigstein deftly refers to as “This version of the Jurgen Klopp story,” is pulled together from extensive interviews with Klopp’s family, friends, co-workers, teammates, players he’s coached, and sporting executives. There is, of course, a slew of anecdotes serving readers with trivia and gossip, but never more than anything more than tabloid fodder. Yet none of those ‘revelations’ really give readers a sense of just how good of a profile, a biography Honigstein has written.

Regardless of your supporter allegiance, Bring The Noise pleases because it celebrates the teams and supporter culture which shaped the kind of player, coach, and then proper manager Klopp became. At each team Klopp has managed, he’s fulfilled the truism “that football teams tend to resemble their coaches after a while.” 

On nearly every page, it is made clear Klopp has a deep, abiding need to integrate his passion for the sport with the intimacy of the supporters both in stadia and in homes. Much is always made, especially here in the United States, of the importance of the link between a team and its community. However this connection is all too often merely a marketing gimmick or rote platitude. Honigstein’s interviews and research shows readers wherever Klopp as been, he has actively nurtured an earnest affection for not just players or supporters but their family, friends, and neighbors.

 

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Klopp is arguably the most complete football manager in the world today. He is a keen and erudite tactical mind always looking to push itself, a deft and social hand on the shoulders of players, a vivacious presence on the sidelines always matching or raising supporters’ energy, a master of talent acquisition in an increasingly wild and exorbitant marketplace, and a man always looking for ways to ingratiate his club with community business. All of these traits rise to the top of Honigstein’s biography without ever presenting Klopp as some kind of messianic figure for football (something far too many do with their subjects). We see the failures in Klopp’s footballing life such as his inability to make his physical footballing skill match his intellectual skill confining him to Bundesliga 2, “a league made of mud, debt and fears” where “everybody hurt.” But, here we also see how by accepting his limitations Klopp was able to pivot towards his strength moving from the pitch at Mainz to the touchline. 

Honigstein doesn’t just present us with the man but the context that gave rise to that man. As a player-manager, Klopp lead a “squad of ‘players that nobody else wanted'” to the top of the Bundesliga 2 “playing a football that was ‘qualitatively and tactically superior than the majority in the division.'” At the same time, broadcasting and commentary was changing how football was consumed. The German network SAT1 took over football broadcasting as Klopp came up as a manager creating an environment where “players and coaches who didn’t bark grandiose, adrenalin-drenched statements into the SAT1 microphones after the final whistle were seen as weak and hapless.” Honigstein characterizes it as “football defootballised, not concerned with the how, only with the wow,” and it is into this “analytic void” where Klopp rose and shone brightly.

We see it all the time in soccer, managers “take out their frustrations on players or lose faith in their own footballing principles” as they and supporters fail to see the “distinction between symptoms and ills, between mere bad luck and underlying deficits.” What makes Klopp stand out is his ability to focus his own natural enthusiasm and positivity not just into his presence on the pitch but also into his tactics creating “a riveting, exhausting ride that ended in relief rather than euphoria, just like any other overly long roller coaster.” When he critiques his “censure would always be directed at the player, not the person,” a man-management skill frequently bringing out the best in a player while preserving the dignity of the person. When Klopp embraces his team’s supporter culture he acts similarly making for a manager that can’t help but be loved. 

Bring The Noise is one of those rare sports books, a football biography that doesn’t aggrandize its subject or turning it into a caricature. Honigstein gives us some genuinely touching moments as well as some top-notch ‘behind the veil’ glimpses.

 

Author

Raphael Honigstein is the author of Das Reboot and the top expert on German soccer. He is a columnist for the Guardian and ESPN, writes for Suddeutsche Zeitung and Sport 1 in Germany, and appears as a pundit for BT Sport and ESPN, as well as Sky Sports in Germany. He is also a regular fixture on the Guardian‘s award-winning podcast Football Weekly.

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