Lukas Podolski loves Brazil. He learnt some Portuguese for the World Cup. He posted Instagram pics just for Brazilian fans. He writes on twitter using Brazilian hashtags such as #tamojunto and #énois.
Ever since Germany won the World Cup, he has made a point of stressing how much Brazil means to him.
At least that’s what the online Lukas Podolski wants us to think. The real Lukas Podolski is different.
A few weeks after the World Cup I was in a restaurant near Cologne, the city where Podolski made his name as a footballer and where he obviously still spends a lot of time when he isn’t at Arsenal.
There were about 20 people at our table, most of them Brazilians and Germans.
Lukas Podolski walked in. The Germans were cool. The Brazilians were excited. A murmur went round the table as people noticed him. Some of them waved and when he didn’t respond, one of the Brazilians gave a friendly shout, “Uhu! Podolski!” It was clear the fans at our table were Brazilian and thrilled to see up close someone who had spoke so highly of them.
Podolski glanced over, put his finger to his lips, and made the “Ssshhhhh” sign.
After he told us to shut up, everyone left him in peace. A few people were outraged at his arrogance, some just shrugged their shoulders. One German girl patiently waited until he had finished his meal and paid his bill and then asked him for a photo. He refused.
Podolski was with a woman and a child, who I presume were his wife and son. They, like everyone else, deserve a private life. Even famous footballers have the right to a quite Sunday lunch with their family.
But I have two problems with Podolski’s attitude. First, it’s stupid. Why make enemies with rudeness and arrogance? Simply tell people he will take a picture with them or sign an autograph once he has had a quiet meal.
But more egregiously, Podolski knew the people there were Brazilians. The same people he said, “were nice and sweet” to him wherever he went in Brazil. The same people he spent much of the year wooing and flattering before, during and after the World Cup. (Even today, he is still at it.)
Podolski’s attitude was a kick in the teeth to those people and proof he has one carefully constructed image for online and another for real fans.
In other words, do not be fooled. The Brazil-loving, happy-go-lucky Lukas Podolski you see online is a fake. The real Lukas Podolski doesn’t really like real Brazilians.