Wojciech Szczęsny may already be No1 for Arsenal FC and Poland, but aged just 22 he is the perfect inspiration for Under-17 goalkeeper Oskar Pogorzelec.
Szczęsny is the latest in an impressive line of Polish custodians, with the likes of Artur Boruc and Jerzy Dudek also between the posts in recent years. The Arsenal man has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top, having been at Agrykola Warszawa in his homeland as a youngster. He also had a brief spell with Legia Warszawa, the club where Pogorzelec has plied his trade since summer last year.
"My personal aim is to follow in the footsteps of the best Polish goalkeepers," Pogorzelec told UEFA.com. "This is one of the reasons I joined Legia a year ago; I knew that this club had good goalkeepers in the past. Joining Legia was an enormous boost for my career. Before I played for Kotwica Kołobrzeg [fourth-tier club]. I feel I am getting better technically and I have become more confident. However, I am much more tired after training than I was at Kotwica!
"I am really delighted about Szczęsny's career. A few years ago he played for Agrykola and now he plays for Arsenal, even in the Champions League against Barcelona. You need to have a lot of talent and luck to achieve so much at such a young age. Poland have always had good keepers, there is also Jerzy Dudek. We have a number of high-level youth academies for goalkeepers, for example in Szamotuły or even at Legia. The secret of good Polish goalkeepers is certainly part talent and part training methods."
Despite not being short of role models in his own country, Pogorzelec holds one other keeper in particularly high esteem. "My idol is Iker Casillas," he said. "Casillas proved that goalkeepers don't have to be very tall. He is 183cm, more or less like me, so it is not the most important thing. More important is that the goalkeeper is efficient and skilled."
Disciplined on and off the field at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Slovenia, Poland have been an impressive outfit at the finals. "I am really delighted to be here in Slovenia," added Pogorzelec. "We are among the eight best teams in Europe and many young players would do anything to be in our place. This is an experience we will remember for the rest of our lives."
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