Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola refuses to apologise for ‘misunderstood’ comments on Etihad fans

Pep Guardiola has stood by his plea for Manchester City supporters to attend the Etihad this weekend and refused to apologise, insisting his remarks were misinterpreted.

After City’s 6-3 win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday night, Guardiola said that he would “like more people to come” to Saturday’s game against Southampton.

A crowd of 38,062 attended the Etihad, which is capped at a 55,000-capacity for Uefa games. City’s attendances at midweek Champions League games have typically been lower than for weekend Premier League matches.

Many City supporters saw Guardiola’s comments as needless criticism, feeding into a stereotype about the club’s support. Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, suggested that Guardiola should stick to coaching in response.

Guardiola was angered by Parker’s comments, calling him out directly in his answers during Friday’s pre-match press conference, and was also unhappy with the general reaction to his remarks, feeling that what he said had been misunderstood.

“Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed because the stadium was not full? No. Interpretation is interpretation. I'm not going to apologise for what I said because I didn't say wrong,” he insisted.

“I’m surprised about what happened with this man [Parker]. It’s not the first time I said in my career, when I was at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here, you play a game like the Champions League, so tough like it was, knowing that three days with a lack of preparation and Southampton had all week to prepare, and Ralph [Hasenhuttl], with how difficult it was last season to win. 

“I made an approach to do something together again the next Saturday at 3pm. What I said is that we would love because we need their support with 10,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 people – it doesn’t matter how many people come – I invite them to enjoy another game like the last game, when we were able to score goals, because we need their support.”

“If after five seasons people cannot understand my behaviour about the fans, it’s because they want to misunderstand exactly what I said. I’m not going to apologise for one second what I said because I was honest. 

“In the last year and half, we have been unfortunately without them, and I was incredible grateful for the support we had in the last game against Leipzig, and when we play away and when we play at home with all our people. 

“Always I said, guys if you want to join us, we’d be incredibly happy if you’d come to see the next game against Southampton because I know how difficult it will be and I’d prefer to be with my people than without them. But if they don’t come for any reason, it’s perfect. 

“I never was here to say why you didn’t come. If you want to come, come. If you don’t, don’t. So Mr Parker should review the comments done the day after, but I will not apologise to him, absolutely not.”

Guardiola also insisted that he was proud of City’s support and that he admires the way tens of thousands of fans stuck by the team and attended their former home Maine Road during their spell in English football’s third tier.

“We are who we are, we are proud of who we are. I know the history, I learned the history of this club, how when we were in the lower divisions, how they travelled and followed the team. I respect it a lot,” he said. 

“I don’t want to be like United, I don’t want to be like Liverpool, like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Madrid, all the big clubs. We are who we are, in all good things and bad things. I like it. 

“Don’t misunderstand or put words in my mouth I didn’t say. I will never be a problem for my fans, never ever. If I’m a problem for the fans I will step aside, it’s not a problem for me. 

“I am one of them. Since day one, I try to do my best and my job as good as possible, that’s for sure.”

Original article 17.09.21 on the Independent website

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