Lech fans are hoping that their team can overturn their 0:1 first-leg loss to Icelandic side Stjarnan F.C. next Thursday when the two meet in Poznan for their Europa League encounter. One person who will be looking to spoil the party is Stjarnan's American: Pablo Punyed. Pablo was kind enough to answer some questions for us before the game, and will also fill us in on his thoughts after the second leg.
How did you end up in Iceland and at Stjarnan in particular?
Pablo Punyed: I had the opportunity to play in Iceland two years ago, and though I knew little about the league, I knew (and still know) that this league is a stepping stone to the better leagues I aspire to play in. I took the opportunity, and after my contract was up with Fylkir (of Iceland) after last season, Stjarnan showed interest in me and it turned out to be a real good decision. The team is fantastic, the guys are very welcoming to me, and we are hoping to take the team to the next level.
What's it like playing in Iceland?
PP: Playing in Iceland is very underrated, and I'm not sure why. The national team is doing well. Teams like FH and KR and now Stjarnan are performing in Europe, and Icelandic players are playing all over Europe, successfully. The league is growing every year, and personally I am getting the experience I need to hopefully take the next step in my career when the time is right. I enjoy it very much here.
|Photo via culebritamacheteada|
Stjarnan are famous worldwide for their goal celebrations in the past. Any chance the team brings it back during Europa League play?
PP: This is a very common question I get when doing an interview. The celebrations are a fantastic way to express ourselves on the pitch. Recently the team is focusing more on performing football-wise rather than the celebrations for goals, but you can never write off such creative individuals! Perhaps scoring at Poznan will bring out the creativity for a cool celebration.
Where does Stjarnan's great play in qualifying come from? You have eliminated two teams, including Scottish side Motherwell F.C., and have won the first leg against Lech 1:0.
PP: Stjarnan's recent form in the league and in Europa is no coincidence. Off the pitch, the team is tight-knit and gets along well and that gives us confidence on the pitch to express our individual game within the team's margin. On the pitch we have the players who work hard and perform week in and week out. We are taking this first European adventure as a learning experience, but we are all clear on one thing: we want more!
How do you feel going from playing in front of relatively tiny crowds in Iceland, to playing for over 20,000 people in Poznan, in a stadium that hosted Euro 2012 matches?
PP: I am very excited! To be honest the amount of people watching a game makes little difference to me, as I always try to play my game either way, but it is very exciting when thinking about the occasion. I guess it's an advantage that I don't understand Polish because I won't be focused on what the fans will be screaming. This gameis a final for both teams, and I look forward to playing in front of very passionate fans in a world-class stadium!
Follow Pablo on Twitter at @PabloPunyed