Łukasz Wiśniowski – everyone is jealous of his work in the Polish Football Association

His colleagues laughed at him when he came to work for the Polish Football Association. Today many cannot imagine the training camps and matches of the Polish national team without him. Bosses appreciate him for his ingenuity and football players for the fact that he does not pick up their girlfriends. Meet Łukasz Wiśniowski, co-creator of the YouTube channel “Łączy Nas Piłka”.

If you did a social survey like this, you’d probably find that one in two guys in this country envy your work, and one in three perhaps hate you for the same reason. But I guess it’s no surprise, because you have the coolest job in the world.

Lukasz Wisniowski: – I’ve never felt any kind of hatred, although of course I understand you say that with a grain of salt. As far as jealousy is concerned, I actually encounter opinions of people who openly admit that they envy my work. I’m talking about that positive jealousy if it can be defined that way at all. What more can I say, after all, I won’t pretend otherwise. Yes, I have a great job.

Are there any downsides to your job?

– Generally I am constructed in such a way that I see few downsides in life. I try to see reality in a positive way, because that’s the basis for functioning well. There are no downsides, because it’s just great work. Of course you have to take into account that people see only a small part of what I do in the Polish Football Association. But I also realize that there is nothing strange in it, because the Łączy nas piłki channel is the part of my activity that people are most interested in. Okay, the only downside is that after coming back from a business trip you have to settle the advance (laughs).

What do you do when there are no training camps and national team matches?

– I don’t like to stay in one place for too long, so it was great that during the last year of our activity, apart from the first national team and youth team training camps, we made a series of reportages about our players performing all over Europe. This is a very time-consuming project, because once we have recorded the video, we need to spend a lot of time on post-production. It is also important to remember that the Polish Football Association supervises 17 different national teams, so we really have something to do. We prepare a lot of materials which are sometimes presented only on e.g. general meetings of PZPN or other internal events. There are projects that absorb us completely, such as the Academy of Young Eagles, which we strongly support in the media. These are the topics that people are not so interested in. However, due to the fact that the Łączy nas piłki channel has gained huge popularity, we can feed the viewers with materials that are not only related to the first national team. Now I’m going to sit in the office for a while, because we’ve brought a lot of video footage from France, which finally needs to be reviewed.

Have you ever had moments of doubt after coming to the Polish Football Association? Did you think that maybe you had chosen wrongly?

– At the very beginning a lot of people laughed at me that now I will become a sad clerk. However, I was aware of the idea of president Zbigniew Boniek, who thought that there will be something like, as he says: federation television. After talks with Janusz Basałaj I knew what our goal was and what we wanted to show. I was not particularly worried about changing my employer, because I have always been interested in working for the national team. When I was still working for Orange Sport, covering the national team was something unattainable, reserved for people with more experience. Throughout my time at Orange Sport I was on the national team maybe three or four times. As Mateusz Święcicki, with whom I worked in television at the time, says, working on the Polish national team is the Himalayas for a sports journalist. I admit that this perspective tempted me. I have never regretted this decision. But this also stems from my character, because I try not to dwell on what would have happened. At such moments, I always remind myself of Kazik Staszewski, who used to say that “if” is the favorite word in Poland, because if mother had a dick, she would be father.

Who came up with the formula of the Łączy nas piłkę channel? Was there a brainstorm or did your boss Janusz Basałaj have a ready scheme for this channel?

– It is very interesting, because the YouTube channel and the Facebook fanpage existed before, and the slogan “łącz łącz nas piłki” was invented during Grzegorz Lato’s term of office. I think it is a fantastic slogan. Perhaps this potential was not fully used then. But one can also put forward a thesis that we were in better times when it comes to social media and the game of the national team itself. Janusz Basałaj had a simple patent – he wanted to show this representation in any way possible behind the scenes. It is known that this is not done from day to day. I think it would be strange if on the first day we started to show the national team at least the way we showed it during Euro 2016. It would be completely unnatural. It took time to bite into this group and get used to it. It seems to me that the huge popularity of this channel at some point surprised us all. Later we had to expand the team with Kuba Polkowski and Adrian Duda, because it turned out that there was a lot of material to be realized and not enough people to work with. In the meantime our relations with the first national team developed, the selector changed, coach Adam Nawałka came. The coach also added another dimension to our work, wanting us to be full members of the team – dressing like the team, living in the same hotel, eating meals together with the players. This gave a lot of new opportunities in terms of building relationships.

What is Mr. Janusz Basałaj’s role in the Łączy nas piłki project? The materials you produce, such as those from Euro 2016, go through his hands before publication on the Internet, or do you have freedom of action?

– Janusz Basałaj’s role in the entire project is crucial. If we were to translate it into corporate hierarchy, he is the chief executive, boss, director and finally the man who is responsible for my journalistic development, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be in Orange Sport and later in PZPN. It was Janusz who talked with coach Nawałka at the very beginning of our project and set the rules of cooperation. He gave us recommendations and told the coach that we are trustworthy people. As I work close to the national team, I am probably most associated with Łączy nas piłki, but it is Janusz Basałaj who is responsible for the whole project, because Łączy nas piłki is not only a YouTube channel, but the whole portal, which during Euro 2016 recorded as many as 2 million unique users. This is an excellent result. As for the publication itself on the Internet, it was never that Janusz asked us to show him the material before uploading the video. If there was a situation when he saw the recording just before the broadcast, it was only when he came to our office when we were editing and he just took a look. He has full confidence in us. However, of course he watches all the material during the broadcast and sometimes he has some comments, but not so much that there is a need for re-editing. We also have to remember that we worked at night during the Euros, so we would have to wake him up at 4 a.m. to show the newly edited film. And nobody would dare to do that! (laughs).

How did the beginnings of taming the players with the camera look like?

– We started to work during Fornalik’s term, during the qualifiers. We said that we will work on the basis of television, which has a little more rights to show the national team. However, when the manager changed, Adam Nawałka introduced us to the team during the first training camp, and in a way we became a part of the national team. With time we were looking for the so called “meat”, as they say in the television jargon – we stayed after the training, we strolled along the hotel corridor. Naturally, the relationships with the players became more intimate. We decided that we would start using a GoPro camera, which because of its micro size is more subtle, allows us to break down that wall between us and the players. Of course, we also use a traditional camera when recording interviews or training sessions, but the GoPro is such a handy device that during Euro 2016 I was able to carry it with me all the time without restraint. These were milestones in terms of the nature of our work. We have a generation of footballers who have grown up with social media. We were fortunate to be in this generation and during the national team’s period of success.

Have there been any unpleasant situations in connection with recording players during free time? Someone threw a fit, someone didn’t want to be recorded?

– I don’t recall such a situation. From the moment we were ‘anointed’ by coach Adam Nawałka the players had no problems with us, nor we with them. Besides, there were no unpleasant situations before, either. What’s more, there were times when the players called us because something funny happened. Of course, at the beginning not everyone felt this convention, but with time they became convinced to it and later on they proved to be very good at it. All the time we had a sense of what we could and shouldn’t do, such a common-sense approach. There is no denying that it is much easier to work in a winning atmosphere.

Nevertheless, I have an impression that you were probably more relaxed with Artur Jędrzejczyk than with Artur Boruc. However, this distance was visible when the hero of your materials was the mentioned Boruc.

– It depends on what scenes we are talking about. Artur Boruc is also a guy who has a great sense of humor and he proved it several times. I remember such a scene on the plane, when he called us and showed us on his phone an altered photo of Artur Jędrzejczyk wearing a funny cap which he got from a fan. He looked like Jackie Chan. Every footballer has a different character. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Artur Boruc, because he is a legend of this national team. Even as a kid I admired him in front of the TV, so maybe this distance results from a great respect. It does not mean that I do not have respect for other footballers. The main thing is to show the natural behavior of footballers, not to do something by force, not to create reality.

What couldn’t you record during Euro 2016? Did you work in any specific time frame?

– There were no time frames at all. We lived with the rhythm of the representation, breakfast in the morning, then training, dinner, wellness, etc. We try to be subtle and invisible. As for what we can and cannot do, it was decided before the Euro qualifiers. We do not record tactical briefings and locker room talks just before the game.

How many minutes was one example of raw footage, from which you later edited a usually ten-minute film?

– It varies, it depends on the day. There were days when we had an hour of raw footage, but there were also days when we had to choose scenes from 30 minutes of footage. The point is not to have the camera on all the time, but to look for scenes that are worth recording.

Have you received any signals that other football federations are following your channel?

– During a friendly game against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw I was approached by a man who is responsible for the media in the local federation. He asked me how we convinced the players to let us record them during the training, because it’s impossible for them, their players said directly that they absolutely don’t want it. The Czechs wanted to do something similar to our project, but they hit a wall in the form of the players.

And what did you say to him?

– Timing. The first thing is time and skillful building of relations with the players.

Maybe the Czechs would convince the players if they had a significant authority in the form of their federation president. Boniek is undoubtedly such an authority in Poland and the players respect his opinion.

– Maybe it would help them. In our case it was the president Zbigniew Boniek who was the originator of the whole TV project around the national team, but I think that the president doesn’t interfere in the organization of the team’s life, because it is coach Nawałka’s topic. However, before coach Nawałka signed the contract with PZPN he was already familiar with the plans of our project. I know that UEFA highly praises the whole Łączynaspilka.pl portal. At the workshops that various federations come to, they appreciate us on the occasion of various competitions. On the other hand, we haven’t discovered America. Showing sport from behind the scenes is as old an idea as the world itself. We had a great group of people and good timing.

Paweł Zarzeczny said in Krzysztof Stanowski’s programme that not only Nawałka has to agree on a new contract, but also you, because in a while somebody will want to buy you.

– Paweł says a lot of different things. Of course I laugh at the idea that someone will buy me out, because I am not going anywhere. Recently Paul told me that he knows why football players like me so much and treat me like a buddy. I ask him why? To which Pawel says: Because they know you won’t snatch any girl from them. And here we agree, because I have a wife. I still have a valid contract with the Polish Football Association and there is no question of any transfer. In October there are elections in PZPN, so there is no denying that my professional future will probably depend on their results.

Please tell us a few words about the documentary on the Polish national team’s performance at Euro 2016, which is to be released in the near future. Will the film be distributed in cinemas?

– As for the distribution, I have no idea, because I do not deal with these things. We will see what comes out of it after the editing. We wanted to lead one thread, which is not related to the tournament itself, but which touches a large part of the players. We based it on three names – Piszczek, Fabiański, Błaszczykowski. Let me just say that these are footballers who were born in the same year, left Poland in the same year, and each of them has already won the Polish championship. Besides, they are great friends. I can’t say more. We have a lot of material that we haven’t published. In some aspects we need the permission of UEFA. I hope this will work out.

What happened in the locker room after the defeat against Portugal? The material after this match did not appear on the Internet.

– We came back very late. We arrived at the hotel at 5am, and already at 10 we were supposed to go to the airport. There was no time. Later we said that we would keep the footage recorded after the game against Portugal for our documentary.

Did anyone even want to talk then?

– I stated that I would not record conversations, I would not ask questions. I just recorded pictures of people who were depressed, disappointed, sad. I didn’t feel it was a good time to talk. We had grown close to this team, so emotions were boiling over in us as well. Some might say that it’s unprofessional to give in to emotion, and that I should deliberately ask questions at that moment to make great material. I felt differently and I have a feeling that anyone in my position would have done the same.

Was that the saddest football locker room you have ever seen?

– Yes, definitely. But coach Nawałka immediately started to infect everyone with optimism. He did not want to let the players get down. It was a nice attitude. Nobody was used to this new situation, because the national team was winning most of the time. We did not know how to behave. I waited for Łukasz Fabiański, who shed a tear during an interview for Polsat, and I was supposed to escort him to another interview with journalists. I also broke down. However, these are powerful emotions that are hard to control.

What will you remember most about working on the national team during Euro 2016?

– Euro is the best professional experience I have experienced so far. The moment when we run onto the pitch after a penalty against Switzerland is a moment I don’t think I will ever forget. I try to be a bit like our players and not get excited about anything, but no matter how we perceive it they went down in history and we also participated in this history. It’s a pretty nice realization. But temporary. Time to land, hopefully not so hard, in September in Kazakhstan.

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