Kacper living the professional football dream … with thanks to his inspirational teachers at Orchard School
Published on 04/02/19
Ex-student has signed as professional with Premier League squad
Less than two years ago Kacper Lopata was playing on Orchard School’s astroturf – today he’s rubbing shoulders with stars of the Premier League as a professional with Brighton and Hove Albion.
The 17-year-old, who lived in Horfield and has now relocated to the south coast, says much of his success is down to the inspiration of the PE staff at Orchard.
And he has thanked them for being tough with him when he was keen to return too early from a knee injury. On reflection he says he now knows they were only looking out for the best for him.
He now trains in Brighton with the Premiership team, rubbing shoulders with the top stars while playing for the U18 side as well as for Poland’s U18s.
Kacper has always played football, as a young boy in Poland before moving to the UK.
He said: “I always played football , ever since I can remember, I played a lot in Poland with my older Brother Kuba just on the street or wherever we could really.
“But I started taking football seriously when I was in Year 7,a lot of that was due to the fact that there was a school football team that I wanted be a part of. I ended up playing as a goalkeeper only because I though that that is the only position that I have a chance to actually play in as boys in other positions were better than me.
“On certain days, Bristol City community would come in and we would play football for an hour or so after school for those who wanted to come. But other than that I just played on my own wherever I could for hours every day.”
He is full of praise for the teachers at Orchard, not just in PE but others who were influential.
He said: “There were a lot of teachers that I looked up to like Mr Grafton or the PE staff because of how they carried themselves but a big one was Mr Coxon, no one would have known this but I always though that he’s just so influential.”
He also has a message for the PE staff when he experienced one of the lowest points in his career so far – being released by Yeovil after a knee injury.
“That was up there with the toughest things I’ve ever gone through. Getting released feels like the end of the world for a boy that wants to be a footballer and on top of that being injured for a year.
“It was a nightmare especially because my knee injury was so strange that sometimes It didn’t cause me any pain and sometimes it did. Now I know that if I carried on playing with it I would have been out for a very long time. I remember many arguments with the PE staff as they were telling me that I can’t do PE even if I think I can and I’ve got to thank them for that.”
He also has fond memories of being introduced to handball by Mr Pitt which could have led to him going down a different sporting route.
Kacper was spotted during pre-season trials, with the help of SGS college coach David Hockaday. At one stage it looked like it could he could be heading for Bristol City or Spurs but his agent told him Brighton were keen and before long he was signing his first professional contract.
He said he still can’t quite believe it but, despite missing his family, has settled in well with the South Coast team.
He said: “I always thought that when I signed my first professional contract I would feel relieved but I didn’t feel like that at all You always want more moments like that, mum crying on your shoulder telling you how proud she is of you, and giving back to the people that helped you the most and were there for you in the worst moments.
“Things like that alongside the fact that I just love football make me want to work harder and harder everyday.
“It is the best ‘job’ in the world. Every day I wake up and do what I’m good at and what I love. I think the worst thing is living away from home just because you can’t see your family that often however you have to make sacrifices if you want to do well, but even that isn’t so bad because when you do get a few days off then you make the most of them and enjoy time off with your family
Sometimes I still can’t believe that four months ago I watched these players on TV and today I see them every day. It really got to me when Martin Montoya came in to the gym and sat down beside to stretch. To think that three years ago he was a regular for FC Barcelona and was playing with the likes of Leo Messi or Andres Iniesta. It’s unbelievable.”
Orchard School head of sport Miss Pemberton-Heard said: “Kacper was always passionate about football. He would have stayed on the astro all day if he could.
“Kacper played on successful handball and futsal teams and I know when he was released from Yeovil he had many conversations with staff about what his options were.
“He has worked hard, and shown true Orchard values in his determination and resilience. We were so happy when he emailed to say that he had signed for Brighton and that Poland had invited him to a training camp. It will be exciting to follow his career and Kacper has already been in to visit - it's great that he remembers his time with us so fondly.