Homeless goalkeeper had no bed in Wembley before reaching final under arch

Filip Chalupniczak wakes up to the sight of the Wembley arch every morning, though memories of the area are mixed for the youngster.

Less than three weeks ago, the Sutton United goalkeeper was on the famous hallowed turf as the League Two side lost to Rotherham United in the Papa John's Trophy final. But it's all a far cry from where the 21-year-old was just eight years ago.

Then in Poland, Chalupniczak and his family were left homeless. But they found their way to a room in north-west London with the shot-stopper having to spend his first few months in the country without even a bed to sleep on.

"Eight years ago I was in Poland," he explained from his home as he gazed out at Wembley Stadium. "I don't want to go into much detail, it's personal, but we ended up losing our home.

"It's been a tough moment for us. One of our friends from our city bought my dad a ticket to come over to London, to Wembley. Dad was here for three or four months and brought mum over. They started everything here then I came over.

"I was homeless in Poland but here we rented a room and was sharing it between the three of us. I didn't have a bed to myself up until I was 15, there were four of us because my sister came around Christmas time that year. It's been a tough start."

That it has, but the young goalkeeper is going from strength to strength on the pitch.

Having spent time with Wealdstone, Wimbledon, and QPR, Chalupniczak was signed by Sutton United in the summer of 2020.

He was part of the squad that won the National League in his first season at Gander Green Lane and while the Us battle for back-to-back promotions, Chalupniczak is hoping to keep Sutton Common Rovers in Isthmian League South-Central Division.

The keeper is currently on loan at the club having also had a spell with Hanwell Town earlier this season, with his Sutton United contract ending this summer.

Though the second year Sports Rehabilitation student was able to travel the couple of miles from his home to Wembley for the agonising defeat to Rotherham earlier this month.

He said: "I had a game for Sutton Common Rovers before, and after the game, I went home and went straight to the hotel. The whole experience was amazing. To walk on that pitch is an amazing feeling.

"I can see Wembley from my window talking to you now. When I woke up the day after the game I didn't even want to look at it. It was heartbreaking. But I ended up in Wembley eight years ago, and it feels like a good achievement.

"Hopefully we get to the play-offs and back to Wembley this season. But on a personal note, of course I've got the ambition of playing in the Premier League."

Polish goalkeepers are not unusual in England with the likes of Jerzy Dudek, Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski among those to have impressed at the top level.

Though Chalupniczak had to battle adversity to even reach the stage he is at now, adding: "My parents don't speak English, I barely spoke the language but had to help them as much as I could.

"To be fair, there were a couple of Polish kids at school and playing football helped. If you play football the kids start liking you and are helpful towards you. But it was obviously a tough start.

"I was the only kid [willing to go in goal], maybe because when I was really young I was a little chubby kid so got stuck in goal.

"I played for a couple of years in Poland and then carried on here. I started playing Sunday League with mates, then one thing led to another.

"Football in Poland is much different, it's not like here. Here, when it is match day, the whole city lives it. In Poland, it's just football. There aren't many people I know that would go to a game, even on a weekend. Here it's amazing how people love football and how they support the clubs.

"The whole family is here and I wouldn't be me without the experiences I've had, it's part of my character now."

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