Recently, Bukayo Saka sat down with France Football for a lengthy interview about Arsenal, football, his childhood and his values.
Topics he touches on in the interview include:
- Childhood Admiration for Arsenal: From room decorations to attending matches and dreaming of playing for Arsenal, Saka’s early life revolved around the club. He describes his daily routine as a young player, his school life, and his growth in the Arsenal Academy.
- Playing Style and Inspirational Figures: Saka shares his playing style, including aggression, technique, creativity, and his relentless desire to win. He also mentions his inspirations from visiting the stadium and experiencing major matches.
- Life Off the Pitch: He talks about his personal life, shopping habits, relaxation, family time, and the athletes in various sports who inspire him.
- Personal Values and Personality: He emphasizes his commitment to his values, his connection to religion, and his relationship with fans.
- Changes and Ambitions at Arsenal: He discusses the transformation within Arsenal, including the mindset, new recruits, and his relationship with Coach Mikel Arteta.
- Leadership and Excitement for the Future: Saka reflects on shared leadership within the team, the changing atmosphere at Arsenal, and his excitement about upcoming opportunities like the Champions League.
- Inspirations and Aspirations: He shares his aspirations for winning trophies, including the Golden Ball, and his influences from other famous figures.
- Connection to Nigeria and Community Engagement: He reflects on his connection to Nigeria, his initiatives with local children and young players, and what it means to him.
- Reflection on Career and Personal Attributes: He talks about his desire to inspire the next generation, his role as a model for Arsenal Academy children, his fashion sense, and people he would like to read about in interviews.
Saka on describing himself for speed dating
“I’m 21 years old. I play for Arsenal. It’s been my club almost forever. I’m someone who loves football, someone who likes to be happy and loved. I try to be smart and want to enjoy life.”
Saka on football being his life
“It’s been in my life since I was a kid.
“As soon as I realised this game existed, I loved it. And I still do.
“Around my house was a closed district, which formed a circle with the other dwellings.
In the middle was just a green field. Not really a football field, but we transformed it into one. Everyone came to play. After school, we’d gather there, the neighbourhood children, playing until our parents called us to eat, then to shower, and finally to bed.
“The next day would be school, and the cycle repeated. I was also lucky to have a garden where I played with my older brother and my father. There were goals and I just played. I had many options.”
Saka on his bedroom
“My bedroom? Good question, it depends on the age.
“Over time, I added many things. I recall a visit to the Emirates Stadium where I saw Chuba Akpom.
“I already had his jersey from when I was at the Arsenal Academy. He was in good form then, and at the stadium, he threw his shirt to me. I used it as decoration.
“My room was filled with Arsenal memorabilia: posters, photos, and the club calendar. I was a massive fan.”
Saka on a typical day in his childhood
“[It was] Busy! I’d wake up at 8 o’clock, if I remember correctly.
“I was always in a rush. You know hot cross buns? Very English. I’d stuff them with sausages and ketchup and eat quickly.
“I had school, then my father would pick me up with a snack to head to Hale End. On the way, I’d eat a bit, chat, maybe nap.
“Training was usually from 6-8 pm. Then, another hour drive home. It was a late routine for a youngster.
“Afterward, I’d shower, have dinner, and go to bed. We trained at least three times a week and had a match on the weekend.”
Saka on finding time to dream
“I dreamt of becoming a professional footballer, debuting for Arsenal, playing in the Champions League, and getting called up for England. The older I got, the more motivated I became. I’d watch football on TV and aspire to be like those players. I dreamt of being part of big matches and moments without neglecting school.”
“I was a good student. I felt I was gifted in some ways because I always saw myself as clever. I learned quickly and was curious. I wanted to solve problems, whether related to school or not. I consistently had good grades. Later on, I studied business and excelled in that too!”
Saka on post-football plans
“There are many options, but for now, I’ll stick with football.”
Saka on growing up as a ‘baby Gunner’
“Going to the Arsenal Academy every day and growing up there (I joined at age 8) was an incredible experience for someone like me.
“I drew inspiration from many people there. Playing for Arsenal, one of the world’s biggest clubs, was a dream. The academy allowed me to visit the stadium too. I remember an Arsenal-Barcelona match with Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez. Those memories nourished my passion.
“Being a child or teenager in such an environment is unforgettable. The stadium itself is mesmerising. I adore everything about it: the fans, the ambiance, even the pitch… You can see how the ball rolls; it epitomises Arsenal’s style of play. Being there every week has always been my dream.
“Moving towards the goal drives me crazy, as does losing matches. I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid defeat; sometimes it requires more physicality, other times more aggressiveness, and sometimes it’s about technique and creativity. The approach might vary, but the goal is always the same.”
Saka on life off the pitch
“It depends on my energy.
“When I’m in good spirits, I enjoy shopping and breaking the routine. I love spending time with family and friends. But when I’m tired, I just chill and sleep.”
Saka on being himself
“It’s what brought me here. I won’t change my values for anyone or anything. I have strong beliefs, and though I’m not perfect and have much to learn, it’s vital to remain who I am.”
Saka on being a fan favourite
With a constant smile, Saka is often seen as a joyful figure. “Most of the time, yes! But I don’t know if that’s why the fans like me.”
Saka on changes at Arsenal
“We’re doing much better these times. With Mikel Arteta as our coach since December 2019, it’s been a revolution. He’s changed many principles, especially regarding the club’s culture.
“Add to that new recruits, staff… We’re progressing. I’m very ambitious, and so is Arteta. I’m demanding of myself, and it aligns well with someone like him.”
Saka on Arteta being like a big brother
“No, no! He’s my boss!”
Saka on Arteta being annoyed at him
“Sometimes I don’t do exactly what he asks on the pitch, but it’s not annoyance. He’s demanding because he wants me to progress. He desires me to be the best person and, of course, the best player possible.”
Saka on being a leader in the team
“I don’t see myself as the leader. Leadership is shared within this group. Everyone has their role, and I strive to fulfill what’s expected of me, primarily to score and create impactful moments.
“However, I’ve observed positive shifts in training and during games. The vibe and mindset at Arsenal are evolving.
“Returning to the Champions League is the beginning of an exciting chapter. It’s something Arsenal is accustomed to, but for me, it’s going to be truly special. I can’t wait.”
Saka on watching Champions League clips on Youtube
“No, I didn’t (laughs)
“I’ve already watched countless matches. These Champions League nights are unique and exhilarating. I’m eager to face this challenge and grow from it.
“Ultimately, my goal is to win numerous trophies for Arsenal and score pivotal goals. On the international stage as well, winning the World Cup with England would be monumental. The aspiration for every player, I believe, is to win the Ballon d’Or. But for now, our focus is on collective victories.”
Saka on his legacy
“I want to inspire people. To show that while they can dream, they should also continuously push themselves. Dreams are a starting point. I realise now the significance of my voice.
“I recently visited Nigeria, my parents’ homeland. I feel a deep connection to that place. During my youth, I made frequent visits, but back then, I couldn’t fully grasp everything.
“This recent trip was very special to me. Connecting with the locals, especially the children, was heartwarming. Handing out jerseys on local fields meant a lot to me. It’s also a reminder to remain grounded and not lose oneself in the whirlwind of football.”
Saka on his career to date
“The younger version of me would certainly be proud of what I’ve achieved, but he’d also know there’s much more ahead. I’ve realised several dreams, but there’s a long list yet to tackle.”
Saka on if the Academy kids find inspiration in him
“Absolutely. I remember being in their shoes, training hard, and idolising the first-team players. I was inspired by the likes of Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi, and Jack Wilshere. Now, I aim to be that figure for the next generation. It’s crucial for me to return, spend time with them, guide them, answer their queries. In their eyes, I see my younger self. I was just like them once.”