Two years ago at this time, Bukayo Saka was just beginning to establish himself as a regular starter at Arsenal. Now he is one of the Premier League’s brightest young stars and will likely participate in his second major tournament with the English national team at the end of the year.
A product of Arsenal’s academy, Saka made his professional debut on Dec. 13, 2018, at the age of 17. Less than a month later, he became the first player born in 2001 to play in a Premier League game.
The 20-year-old was instrumental in his team’s resurgence last season and was one of just eight Premier League players to score more than 10 goals and record more than five assists. In their season-opening 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Friday, it was a shot from Saka that deflected off a defender and into the net for Arsenal’s second goal.
Causing havoc on the wing ⚡
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 6, 2022
As his soccer stature continues to rise, Saka remains grounded by his faith. The first line of his Instagram bio says “God’s child.” Earlier this year, he was asked to share his thoughts on how fame and Christian faith go together with students at Edward Betham Church of England Primary School, which he attended. Saka credited his family with introducing him to Christianity and talked about the importance of prayer.
“I grew up in a Christian family who believe strongly in God,” he wrote. “This always made me curious to get to know God more and I have done so by reading my Bible a lot and going to church a lot over the years.”
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Saka’s first appearance on the international level came in a friendly against Wales in October 2020. He was part of England’s squad for the Euro 2020 tournament that was postponed until last summer, making three starts during the team’s run to the final. The winger pointed to his faith as a source of confidence during an interview with talkSPORT in the middle of the tournament.
“I just have faith in God that wherever He takes me, He’s going to deliver, He’s going to provide and be there for me,” Saka said.
England played Italy in the final, and the game went to a shootout. Saka — who came on as a substitute — missed the decisive penalty kick. He, along with teammates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, were racially abused on social media following the loss. The country rallied around the three players, though, and Saka sent a tweet thanking people for their support and declaring love would ultimately triumph.
— Bukayo Saka (@BukayoSaka87) July 15, 2021
He’s continued to lean on God as he’s become one of the most recognizable faces at one of the world’s most storied clubs.
“When we were growing up we were taught by our parents to have faith in God,” Saka recently told GQ, “and when you’re younger you don’t fully understand. But throughout life, you keep exercising your faith, so when you get into different challenges, you decide, ‘This time I’m going to trust God’, and God comes through for you. That’s how it kept building and building for me, so I can be confident and go into places knowing that God’s got me.”
When asked by GQ to identify 10 things he can’t live without, he chose his Bible as one of his objects.
“Religion is a big part of my life,” Saka said. “I would say I’m a strong believer in God. Reading this Bible all the time helps me to learn more and more about God.”
Saka is featured prominently in Amazon’s “All or Nothing” documentary series that followed Arsenal throughout the 2021-22 season. The first episodes were released Thursday and have only endeared Saka to the fanbase more.
He is in position to be part of England’s squad for the World Cup, which starts Nov. 21 and features a matchup with the United Sates on Nov. 25. Arsenal host Leicester City in their second game of the Premier League season at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.
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