Szczesny's career almost ended when he broke BOTH arms in freak gym accident, before becoming Poland's World Cup hero | The Sun

Szczesny's career almost ended when he broke BOTH arms in freak gym accident, before becoming Poland's World Cup hero | The Sun

POLAND hero Wojciech Szczesny has been his country's star performer at the World Cup.

The former Arsenal No1 pulled off a stunning double save to thwart Saudi Arabia, first from the penalty spot, and then from close range.



He followed that up by keeping Lionel Messi out from 12 yards with another incredible spot-kick stop, as Poland qualified for the last-16.

Amusingly, he lost a €100 bet to the little Argentinian over whether the penalty would be overturned by VAR.

But his career could have been over before it had started, following a training ground incident that left his career hanging by a thread.

In a freak accident in the gym, Szczesny broke BOTH arms after slipping during a weightlifting exercise when he was just 17.

That didn't stop the youngster from breaking into Arsene Wenger's Arsenal team and establishing himself as first-choice goalkeeper at 20.

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Despite falling out of favour in North London, when he was caught smoking in the changing rooms following a defeat, he rebuilt his career in Serie A at Juventus.

Outside of football, the outspoken footballer, now a more mature 32, is a family man – married to stunning pop star Marina Luczenko.

Born to be between the sticks

Poland has always had a history of mad goalkeepers – check Jan Tomaszewski to the more recent Artur Boruc.

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Szczesny is in that mould. His dad Maciej was also a famous keeper and was capped seven times by his country.

As an athletic kid growing up in Warsaw, his first love, surprisingly, wasn't sport.

Somewhat apologetically, he admitted he enjoyed ballroom dancing in his early years.

"I'm a little embarrassed to talk about it now but the very first sport that I did, if you can call it sport, was ballroom dancing," he told The Guardian in 2011.


"I was aged seven to nine or 10. I was tall and so I think I was a little bit stiff but I was getting the movements and everything."

At school, Szczesny excelled at the javelin. But it was football that would soon become his priority.

Under the tutorage of legendary goalkeeping coach Krzysztof Dowhan, who worked with his dad, he rose through the ranks at Legia Warsaw, making his debut between the sticks aged just 15.

Bigger things were just round the corner.

North London calling

In 2006, the promising youngster moved to Arsenal – where he was promoted to the reserve team for the 2008-09 season.

However, a horrific and fluke injury threatened his progress.

While lifting weights at the club's the training ground, he lost his footing and broke both his arms. It left the teen sidelined for four months during a crucial period in his development.

“I was in the gym doing squats when I lost my balance and the weight fell on my hands and broke both of them," he recalled.

“It was a little bit bizarre. There was ­actually a few people in the gym at the same time and they said they were about to laugh before they realised my arms were not quite straight!”

Despite the setback, Szczesny was not going to let that stop him from breaking into Arsenal's first eleven.

Rise

After a successful loan at Brentford in the 2009-10 season, Szczesny found himself fighting Manuel Almunia and fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski for the goalie's jersey at the Emirates.

He made his debut in a 1-0 loss to Manchester United, accrediting himself well in the narrow defeat.

After a run of games and clean sheets, Wenger made him first choice – insisting, "he's done nothing for me to take him out."

There was a blip – a combined error with Laurent Koscielny that allowed Obafemi Martins to tap into an empty net and win the League Cup final for Birmingham City.

But, Arsenal appeared to have found a save pair of hands for the years to come.

The 2013-14 season was Szczesny's best in North London.

Not only did he share the Golden Glove award with Petr Cech for most clean sheets, he also won his first piece of silverware – the FA Cup.

The following season, as is the case with many young players, a dip in form contributed towards his downfall.

Demise

In what was probably his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt, Szczesny had a mare during an away day at Southampton.

Two errors led to a 2-0 defeat, and the Gunners were soundly beaten by the Saints at St Mary's.

What happened next cost him his future at the club.

Upset after the game, he hid in the dressing room shower and lit up a cigarette.

"Back at that time I was smoking regularly and the boss knew it very well," he told Arsenal podcast In Lockdown.

"He just didn't want anybody smoking in the dressing rooms and I knew that also. 

"Because of the emotion of the game, I had a cigarette after the game when the team was still in. I went in the corner of the showers, so it was at the other end of the dressing room and nobody could see me, and I lit one up. 

"Somebody saw me, it wasn't even the boss himself, and just reported it back to the boss. I saw him a couple of days later, he asked me if that was true and I said, 'Yes'. He fined me and that was the end of it. 

"He then said, 'Look, you're going to be out of the team for a little bit' but there was no big bust-ups or big confrontations. I was very professional about it. "

Szczesny was replaced by David Ospina for the rest of the season, but was selected to play in the 2015 FA Cup final – a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. It would be his last appearance for the club.

Redemption in Italy

When Arsenal signed Cech in preseason, it was the signal Szczesny needed to move on.

He embarked on a two-year loan deal to Roma, where in his second season he kept Brazil's Alisson out the side.

The 6f5in goalie also kept the most clean sheets in Serie A (14) as Roma secured their highest ever points total (87), finishing second in the league.

In 2017, still on Arsenal's books, Juventus agreed to pay £10million for his services – seeing him as a successor to Gianluigi Buffon. And they weren't wrong.


Szczesny ousted the Italian legend in his first year at the Old Lady – winning the scudetto in his debut season.

That was followed by two more consecutive title wins, as he firmly established himself as Juve's No1.

Family guy

Keeping his feet firmly on the ground are his family, mainly pop star wife Marina Luczenko.

He has admitted in the past it was love at first sight.

"I saw a picture of Marina on the Internet. I really liked her, I was wondering how to get her phone number. Somehow I managed to do it. But I had to fight for her a bit. I don't hide it," he told Polish fashion magazine Viva!

They tied the knot in 2015, after dating for two years. Three years later, they welcomed their son Liam into the world.

Both Marina and Luczenko haven't made the trip to Qatar, but they are cheering Szczesny on from afar.

The four year-old might even follow in his dad's footsteps – opening up the possibility of three generations of Szczesnys playing for Poland.

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“He knows everything. He's so interested in football. Liam's first steps were to the ball," Marina told Party.pl.

First, he must learn from his dad as Poland's World Cup campaign continues when they play France on Sunday.

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