Hundreds of football fans greeted former Germany international Lukas Podolski as he touched down on Thursday in Japan, ahead of his time playing in the country’s national J-League for Vissel Kobe.
Podolski arrived wearing a cap with his nickname ‘Poldi’ written in Japanese on the front, before signing autographs, taking selfies with fans and even posing for photos with babies.
At a later press conference in a large hall crammed full of journalists, Podolski said his new team was aiming to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
“The J-League is known as the strongest league in Asia,” Podolski said. “I’m here now and I’m focussed on my job at the club. I want to have success.”
“I hope that my move here will encourage others to come here too, to increase the value of the league.”
Hiroshi Mikitani, whose e-commerce and internet company Rakuten owns Vissel Kobe, said it was “an honour” for the team and the league to have a star like Podolski in Japan.
Kobe, who are currently sitting in 11th place in the 18-team Japanese top flight, will hope the 2014 World Cup winner can lift the performance of the team, who have just lost three games in a row.
Podolski has played outside the Bundesliga since 2012 when he ended a second spell at Cologne to move to Arsenal, and in 2015 to Galatasaray.
The left-footed attacker played for Germany from 2004 until announcing his international retirement in August.
He was given a farewell international against England in Dortmund on March 22, earning his 130th cap and scoring his 49th goal for Germany in the process.(dpa)