Bukayo Saka – who is the A* student who has been dazzling England fans?
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 08/07/2021
At the age of 19 years and 306 days, Bukayo Saka wasn’t even born when England captured the hearts of the nation with their oh-so-nearly cup run in Euro 1996.
It wasn’t meant to be for the Three Lions 25 years ago, and their tournament came to an end after a certain Gareth Southgate missed a penalty against Germany in the semi-final.
But last night, as England reached their first major final since 1966, it was Saka’s dangerous cross that led to the own goal which brought the side level six minutes before half-time.
It marked yet another important contribution from a teenager who had just become the youngest England player to start a match at the semi-final stage of a major tournament.
Before the tournament much of the excitement was around the attacking talents of England stars Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho, and rightly so, but it is the boy who grew up in Greenford, west London, who has quite possibly earned himself a starting place in Sunday’s final after a string of impressive performances.
Saka’s fearless approach has drawn praise from fans and pundits alike – with a willingness to take the ball even when under pressure, turning possession into penetration, and making things happen for his teammates.
But it turns out the teenager, who plays for the Premier League side Arsenal, hasn’t only been showing his class on the green turf of Wembley and the Emirates Stadium.
Saka, who studied at Greenford High School, completed his GCSEs with a dazzling four A*s and three As.
One of his former teachers told TalkSport that Saka was “quite a role model student to be honest with you”.
However, despite his capabilities in the classroom, the rising star’s childhood was only ever really about one thing – football.
Saka has said that once school was over he would have something to eat and then go straight out to the garden to play football with his dad and his older brother Yomi.
Saka’s dad had always been a massive football fan and supported Newcastle because of his love for Alan Shearer.
The three of them would play for hours – and when his dad and brother wanted to go back inside, he wouldn’t let them.
Saka told the official Arsenal website: “We kept playing until I won. I’m serious, you can ask them! As long as they were winning, I wouldn’t let them back inside.
“When I got a bit older I would also play on the green outside our house. I loved being outside. I was never one for movies or anything, but I do admit to liking cartoons as a kid – especially Spongebob Squarepants. I loved that!”
At the weekends his father would take him to watch Arsenal – the team Saka signed for at the age of seven.
Yomi also grew up as an aspiring footballer and played as a defender for Watford until he was about 14.
Saka’s parents are of Nigerian descent – meaning the teenager could have chosen to play for the African nation instead of England.
Three Lions fans are now grateful he chose to stick with the country where he was born.
Saka, who did not play in the opening fixtures against Croatia and Scotland, made his debut in the tournament in England’s final group game against the Czech Republic.
He justified his inclusion after barely 10 minutes when he instigated England’s winning goal with a quick-footed break through midfield.
Saka was England’s go-to man to make things happen in the Three Lions knockout fixture against Germany before he was taken off 20 minutes before the end of the match.
He didn’t play in England’s emphatic quarter-final win over Ukraine after suffering a knock in training, but Southgate didn’t hesitate to bring him back for last night’s semi-final clash against Denmark.
And now, if football truly does “come home” after England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy at Wembley on Sunday – it will be partly thanks to a humble teenager who learnt his craft in the back garden of his home just a few miles away.
© Sky News 2020