Lukasz Fabianski feeling at home with Swans
10th November 2014
Swansea stopper Lukasz Fabianski speaks to Jack Magazine about his start to life in Swansea, ending his Arsenal career on a high and how life might have been much different had it not been for the closure of a local sports club.
The last time Lukasz Fabianski pulled on an Arsenal shirt he lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.
Fast forward just over five months, and the Polish shot stopper is preparing to pull on another shirt - but this time to face those team-mates that he shared a career-high moment with.
"It's going to be interesting," considers Fabianski as he explains to Jack Magazine what it might feel like when he lines up for the Swans against his former club.
"Almost all of the Arsenal players that are likely to play are players that I played with.
"It will be a game against some very good friends, but that's part of football, and I will try to treat it as if it were any other game. Hopefully I will be the one smiling at full-time."
Typical of his character, Fabianski will be thinking from a professional perspective come kick-off as friendships and sentimentality are put on the back burner for 90 minutes.
But after spending seven years in North London - a large portion of his career to date - the 29-year-old has fond memories of his time in North London. None more so than his final act as an Arsenal goalkeeper.
Instrumental in helping Arsene Wenger's side en route to last season's FA Cup final when he produced penalty shootout heroics against Wigan Athletic in the semi-final, the Poland international bowed out in style when he lifted the illustrious trophy aloft at Wembley.
After such a glorious finale to his Arsenal tenure, Fabianski could be forgiven for having second thoughts over his departure. But moving from the English capital to South Wales is not a decision he regrets.
"Winning the FA Cup was the best way to finish my time there," reflects the Swansea stopper.
"I decided to leave Arsenal six months before the end of last season, so I was really hoping to finish on a high.
"They are a big part of my life, and I still have a lot of friends there.
"Being in one place for seven years is a long time and it's natural to grow close to the club and the players.
"But I made the decision to leave, and I am very happy with that decision and with how things are going at the moment.
"I hope that my success at Arsenal last season can help me during my time with Swansea.
"I feel really good here. Everyone has been amazing with me, and I am looking forward to the future."
Despite leaving the Gunners, Fabianski remains a popular figure among Arsenal supporters.
On Swansea's pre-season tour of the US, a group of Arsenal fans even made the trip to Minnesota specifically to meet the former Legia Warsaw 'keeper, who joined Arsenal for a fee of £2.1 million in 2007.
"I was told by one of the media guys at Swansea before we went to the US that the club had been asked by this group of Arsenal supporters if they could meet me," explains Fabianski.
"I didn't know when or how, but I could hear them in the stands when we were playing Minnesota United, and they were wearing Arsenal supporters shirts.
"After the game, they waited maybe half an hour to see me. It was a nice experience.
"I was a bit shocked, but it made me realise just how big football is all around the world.
"During my time at the club I think I had a good relationship with the fans. I think I was always very respectful towards the club and loyal.
"I went through difficult periods but I feel I always kept my professionalism and always tried to give my best. Maybe that is why the fans have respect for me."
Similarly, Fabianski has struck a chord with the Swans faithful following his impressive start to life in SA1.
For most people, the transition from the bright lights of London to the coastal city of Swansea may prove a difficult adjustment.
But for the former Arsenal goalkeeper, who spent his early years growing up in the border town of Slubice in Poland, just opposite the German city of Frankfurt, life in Swansea has been no culture shock.
"It's a bit different to London, but I'm enjoying my time here," adds Fabianski. "I've settled in very well.
"Everyone has been very good to me and very respectful, so my transition from London to South Wales has been very smooth.
"In Poland I grew up in a similar place to here. Slubice is a very small town, which isn't as busy as a big city, so I'm kind of used to it.
"It is surrounded by lakes and, during the summer, my two brothers - Bartek and Arek - and I would ride out to them and go swimming.
"We also had a lot of fun playing football and basketball and sometimes we'd go to the open-air pool.
"Similarly, there are plenty of nice outdoor things to do here, especially in the village where I live.
"There are amazing views from the cliffs, so there are some very nice places where you can walk, jog or cycle.
"It's very different to the sort of things I did in London, but I've enjoyed exploring my surroundings."
Despite the similarities between Slubice and Swansea, Fabianski's life could have turned out far differently but for the closure of a local club.
The FA Cup winner enjoyed many sports, but football didn't happen to be his initial love.
"When I was young, I played for the table tennis team in Slubice," he adds.
"But when I was about 12, they disbanded the team because they couldn't fund it anymore and the coach moved away.
"Right around the same time Krzysiek - one of the older boys who used to play in the street with us - told me about a football six-a-side tournament that was being organised by a teacher at a local school. So we got a team together from our school and went.
"That teacher was also the coach at my local football club. After the tournament he took 15 players to play against boys from Victoria, the club in Frankfurt. I was selected and we beat them 4-0.
"That was really my first proper game as a goalkeeper for what became my first club, Polonia Slubice.
"It was a sort of trial game, I suppose, because Polonia were starting a new youth team.
"The coach didn't say anything afterwards but then one day, when I was out at the shops with my mum, he came up to us and said he'd like me to come and train at the club. I was really excited and that's how it all started for me.
"It's amazing to think that, if the table tennis team hadn't been disbanded, I might never have gone to the six-a-side tournament.
"If there had been a basketball team in Slubice, I'd probably have played for that team instead. I loved basketball when I was young, and I still do.
"But, of course, once I started playing football seriously with training, matches and tournaments, that was it! It was crazy from then on.''
An FA Cup winners' medal, alongside 21 international caps for Poland and an Ekstraklasa league title, proves it was a wise choice.
Another astute move was the decision Swansea made to bring Fabianski to SA1.
With five clean sheets from his first ten league appearances in goal for the Swans, the Polish goalkeeper has made an impressive start to the campaign and is well on his way to breaking a club record 14 clean sheets in a Premier League season.
But despite his positive start, Fabianski is striving to be even better.
"I think we are playing really well as a team," he adds. We're in a good position, so hopefully we can continue playing well and getting good results.
"I feel there are still things I need to work on, but I am happy.
"When I analyse my performances, I always see something that I would like to improve on. I will keep working hard and see where it takes me."
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