German cabaret artist Steffen Möller is one of the most popular foreigners in Poland. He plays a German potato farmer on Polish TV and prepared the German national soccer team for Polish life.
DW: You have been preparing the German soccer team for Poland and its people. How did that go?
Steffen Möller: I explained to them how much Poland has changed over the past 16 years. Warsaw, for example, has more skyscrapers than Berlin and Munich put together. After my short presentation, Mats Hummels [eds: defender on the German national soccer team] came up to me and counted to 10 in Polish. I was really impressed - that's not easy.
Did you go any further into the Polish language?
Yes, I taught the players the most important Polish words, like "Good day," "How are you," and so on. Apart from that there's also a fatalistic Polish word: "Trudno." It means "difficult." It's used like "C'est la vie." Trudno basically means you can't change it - we're out of the tournament again, we can't change that.
I told the German players, if you're out in the first round, don't try to reason, just say: "Trudno." They all laughed.
What weight does the German team have in Poland?
The Poles find the German team very interesting. Germany is their big neighbor. Germany is much admired, but at the same time a little feared. Then there's Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose [two German players with Polish roots], who everyone here knows. Two Germans who can speak Polish. The Poles find that great. To them, it means that Polish is not actually such an obscure language, even Germans can speak it.
You once said that the Polish national sport was gathering mushrooms. Have the Poles rediscovered their love of soccer through the Euro 2012?
Yes, of course. They've really prepared for it. They've invested 20 billion euros ($25 billion) in infrastructure over the past few years. Now the time has come and most Poles are amazed that it's really happening now. It will go great here. Poland is somehow lucky that Ukraine is also on board. I'm a big fan of Ukraine, but Ukraine is in the state Poland was in 20 years ago. In comparison, Poland is very professional and westernized.
What will the mood be like in Poland during the Euro 2012?
It all depends on how the preliminary rounds go. If the team make it to the quarter finals, possibly against Germany, then suddenly everyone will be a soccer fan. But if it's like it was four years ago in Austria and Switzerland, when Poland just got one goal in the whole tournament, then it's the end of the world. Then everyone wants to go into the forest and gather mushrooms.
The Poles are considered to be very superstitious. Does that extend to the Euro 2012?
There's a rule for everything. For example, if you encounter a chimney sweep, you should hold onto a button with your hand and not let go until you see a blond woman wearing glasses. Funnily enough, I don't know any customs for soccer. I can only apply wedding superstitions: When bridal couples enter the church, they are not supposed to look to the left or right, even if their aunt and uncle from America are there. It brings bad luck. Maybe the Polish players won't look left or right when they enter the stadium. I'll be looking out for that.
What can the Euro 2012 bring to Poland?
Over the past few years, around 3 million Poles have emigrated - mostly young people. If the Euro 2012 goes well, maybe a few young people will return, because they'll see what Poland has to offer. And maybe Polish soccer will regain popularity. The average audience at Polish league games is around 8,000, while in Germany it's around 40,000. I hope that one day good Polish players will stay in Poland instead of going to play in German or English leagues.
It's likely that no premiere league soccer team will use the new national stadium in Warsaw after the Euro 2012. What will happen after the tournament?
There's a reason why the stadium is shaped like a wicker basket. It will be left open, then moss, grass and mushrooms will grow there and as the German soccer fans are cheering in stadiums on Saturdays, Polish families will be going to the stadium with their wicker baskets, gathering mushrooms.
You've lived in Poland for 18 years. Who would you back if Germany play Poland?
I really wish Poland would experience success. But if it's still 0:0 after 80 minutes then I'll back Germany for the rest of the match.
Poles' penchant for mushrooms is a comical focus of Steffen Möller's cabaret program.
Interview: Peter Wozny / hw
Editor: Kate Bowen