Vissel Kobe forward Lukas Podolski has earned a number of monikers in his storied career. In Germany, fans in his hometown Cologne dubbed him “Prince Poldi,” while others called him the “Kölner-Express” for his speed and ability to power past defenders. Now Japan has given the charismatic footballer a new title to add to the list: Ambassador!
No, Poldi hasn’t hung up his boots to become a diplomat. Rather, he was offered the role of Japan Tourism Ambassador by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) – a job which he gladly accepted. Originally announced in late 2017, the role will see Poldi appear in promotional videos and online campaigns for JNTO as it aims to encourage Germans to visit Japan.
Despite enjoying all-time highs in German visitors in both 2016 and in 2017 (as of the latest data available for November), Japan has not yet achieved top-destination status for Germans. According to JNTO, while 39.3% of Germans have an interest in making a visit, Japan lags behind more proximate countries like England, France, Spain and Italy as their top travel destination.
But with Poldi, the JNTO may have found the perfect representative to win over the hearts of Germans. Not only is Poldi one of the most gifted footballers of his generation, he also happens to be a bona fide Japanophile, as demonstrated by his love of the soccer manga, “Captain Tsubasa.” Beyond his love of Japanese culture, Poldi is a natural spokesman, who is beloved and respected in his home country.
After making his name in the German Bundesliga, Poldi first moved to London in 2012 to join Arsenal FC. In 2015, Poldi played a stint for Italian giants Inter Milan before signing with Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray, where he won multiple trophies. In July of 2017, he scored two goals for the team in his debut match with Vissel Kobe and is reported to be looking forward to the next season.
Wherever he has gone in his glittering globetrotting career, Podolski has brought his fans with him on social media. He is widely followed across multiple social media platforms and is constantly entertaining fans with posts which feature perspectives on his professional and personal life. No doubt JNTO hopes that Poldi’s fans will not only follow his reports from Japan on social media, but also literally follow him to Japan.