Saka is a football genius best known with the nickname “Sakinho“. It begins from his early days, to when he became famous with the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka was born on the 5th of September 2001, in Ealing, Greater London which makes him a British citizen of Nigeria descent.
Upon his birth, his parents named him “Bukayo” which is a unisex name that means “Adds to happiness”. The name actually paid off, from all indications Bukayo’s name indicate he is an origin from the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria in South-West Nigeria.
Having football-loving parents who supported Arsenal, it is only natural for young Bukayo to focus his mind on making it to the club academy. It was Bukayo Saka’s dad who took the sole responsibility to ensure his son stay grounded and humble in his quest to secure a successful academy trial. In the words of Bukayo;
‘My dad was a massive inspiration for me. From when I was young, he always kept me grounded’
The application for Arsenal football academy was only available for the truly talented students. Thankfully Arsenal academy called and he proved his worth, passing their trials. At this time, the pride of his parents and family members knew no bounds.
In his words; “It was quite a struggle for my parents to help me get here but they always gave their all and got me into training”
Just like his teammates, Saka picked former Swedish and Arsenal legend, Freddie Ljungberg who was already a youth coach at the club as his idol.
As an U15 academy player, Freddie Ljungberg gave Bukayo Saka the best piece of advice. He helped Saka to remain humble and to work extra hard as he believed the little boy was in no time going to be a top player.
Everything Freddie Ljungberg predicted about him came to pass. As Saka turned 17 years old, he was given a professional contract by Arsenal and promoted to the under-23 side. Also, after a series of impressive performances, Saka was also called into the club’s senior team.
While with the senior team, he began to look for an opportunity in a competitive game to ignite his career and fight off competition. Speaking of competition, displacing Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey was more of a bigger challenge than his fellow academy mate Reiss Nelson. The much-awaited turning point first came on the 2018/2019 Europa League Final where Saka first left his mark with an impressive performance.
The end of the 2018/2019 season saw both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi leaving Arsenal for Juve and Everton respectively. This gave Bukayo the room to have lesser competition, with only one person in his cadre to compete for the left-wing position.
On 19 September 2019 saw Bukayo Saka having an edge in the rivalry between him and Reiss Nelson. Did you know?… On that day, he didn’t only score, he also provided two lovely assists as Arsenal won 3-0 against Eintracht Frankfurt in their opening group game of the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League.
When Bukayo Saka fulfilled his childhood dream of scoring his first Arsenal goal, he gave his dad a quick FaceTime Call.
Rather than crumble with an ordinary start, the left-winger went from strength to strength. At 18 years and 125 days old, Saka became the youngest Arsenal senior player starter in Premier League history to start a Man Utd vs Arsenal clash. He also amazed fans in the match by displacing Ashley Young.
On 28 August 2020, Saka was in the starting 11 and registered an assist in the 2020 FA Community Shield, which Arsenal clinched a 5–4 victory over Liverpool in the penalty shoot-out after the match was 1–1 after 90 minutes.
On 26 December 2020, he scored his third Premier League goal on his 40th appearance in a 3–1 win over Chelsea. Due to his stellar performance in December 2020, he was later voted as the Player of the Month on the Arsenal official website. He was voted as the Player of the Month again in January, having scored three goals and provided one assist in six appearances across all competitions, in which his goal against West Brom was voted as the runner-up of Arsenal’s Goal of the Month.
Saka was named Player of the Month for the third time in February after contributing one goal and two assists, claiming 48 percent of the votes.
On 6 March 2021, Saka made his 50th Premier League appearance for Arsenal in a 1–1 draw against Burnley; he is the second youngest player in club history to reach that milestone. On 15 April, Saka scored a goal and helped Arsenal to a 4–0 victory over Slavia Prague in the quarter final of the Europa League. After his fine performance, he was named as the Europa League Player of the Week.
Saka represented England at under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 levels.
In September 2018, Saka scored the winner for the England under-18 team in an away game against France. In November 2018, Saka received his first call-up to the England under-19 team. He scored on his debut at that age level in a qualifier against Moldova.
On 4 September 2020, Saka made his debut for England U-21s during a 6–0 victory away to Kosovo. On 1 October, Saka was called up to the England senior squad for the first time, and made his international debut as one of the starters in a 3–0 victory over Wales. Having played four times for England, Saka is now tied to England internationally and can no longer represent Nigeria.
On 1 June 2021, he was named in the 26-man squad for UEFA Euro 2020. On 2 June, in a friendly against Austria, Saka scored his first senior international goal, the only goal in a 1–0 win. He started in England’s third Euro 2020 group stage match on 22 June against the Czech Republic, and was named the man of the match. On 11 July, in the tournament final against Italy, Saka was brought on as a substitute for Kieran Trippier. Following full time and extra time, Saka was chosen to take the team’s fifth penalty during the subsequent shoot-out, his first penalty kick at senior level. Saka’s effort was saved by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and, as a result, Italy won the shoot-out and the tournament. Saka faced racist abuse online after missing the penalty.
As a result, Arsenal issued a statement condemning the abuse and supporting Saka.
“Last night, we saw Bukayo Saka reach the Euro 2020 final at the age of 19 years old,” Arsenal wrote.
“Bukayo has been with us since he was seven and the whole club couldn’t have been prouder to see him represent England throughout the tournament. You could feel it right across the club.
“Last night we witnessed the leadership and character we’ve always known and loved in Bukayo. However, this feeling of pride quickly turned to sorrow at the racist comments our young player was subjected to on his social media platforms after the final whistle.
“Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number of black players. This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.
“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.
“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”