‘It’s impossible not to like this guy’: Bukayo Saka is an all round good guy and a hero to many

A wide-ranging interview in L’Équipe this week saw Bukayo Saka discuss his career, his time in Arsenal’s youth academy and his hopes and ambitions for the future. As well as being a hugely talented player who has become decisive for club and country, Saka is a role model for youngsters and a reference for British-Nigerian people in the United Kingdom, including other sportspeople such as boxer Anthony Joshua and rugby player Maro Itoje. 

As the fourth largest diaspora in the United Kingdom, after Poland, India and Ireland, there are 215,000 Nigerians in the UK today, meaning Saka’s popularity goes beyond club lines. British-Nigerian photographer Timi, who grew up near to the Saka family, sums it up well: 

” Bukayo Saka is like us. When Nigerians go home, even if home is London, it’s as if they are in Nigeria. Buyako makes them proud. He’s definitely the number one idol of our neighbourhoods.”

For Saka, it’s a reason to be proud. Like many other young people in the UK, he grew up heavily influenced by the nation of his parents, and is determined to do as much as he can to help those in need:

” When I was young, I went to Nigeria a lot but I wasn’t really old enough to understand everything that was going on. Recently, I went back to visit. It’s important to have this connection with people there.”

Having recently financed 120 surgical operations for children in Nigeria, the Arsenal star does not want to stop there. He has expressed a desire to build schools and use his money and platform to help the country’s development. He also recently donated money to help with recovery following a devastating earthquake in Morocco. 

As well as being popular amongst the diaspora, Saka is beloved amongst his team mates for club and country, with England team mate Luke Shaw eulogising him in a recent interview: 

“He’s the first player I want to see when I arrive at the England camp. Ask anyone in England and they’ll all say the same thing. It’s impossible not to like this guy.”

Shaw is not alone in his love and admiration for Saka, with the latter crediting his even temperament and pleasant demeanour to the strong Christian faith instilled in him by his parents, allowing him to leverage the bible to “Confront the problems of everyday life ” and crediting religion to have shaped his state his mind.  

Bukayo Saka is turning into a world class player on the field, having become a cornerstone of an Arsenal team competing for major honours and Gareth Southgate’s England side that are now regularly arriving in semi-finals and finals of major competitions. All that is left is win the trophies on the field, he has already won everyone’s hearts off it. 

GFFN | Jack McArdle


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