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Bukayo Saka desperate to contribute at Euro 2020

Bukayo Saka desperate to contribute at Euro 2020
© Reuters
The 19-year-old Arsenal winger was first called it by Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

Bukayo Saka is hoping to live up to his 'little chilli' moniker and prove to be England's hot-shot at the European Championship.

The 19-year-old Arsenal winger scored his first senior Three Lions goal in the warm-up win over Austria last week but it remains to be seen if he will be included in the starting line-up to face Croatia in England's Euro 2020 opener at Wembley on Sunday.

Saka enjoyed a fine personal season in a disappointing campaign for the Gunners, leading to his nickname becoming common knowledge after Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coined the name in French – le petit piment'.

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dubbed team-mate Bukayo Saka as the
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dubbed team-mate Bukayo Saka as the 'little chilli' (Catherline Ivill/PA)

Aubameyang would also gift Saka with a personalised, jewel-encrusted chilli after Arsenal's FA Cup win in 2020.

"It started from Auba," he replied when asked about the 'little chilli' nickname,

"He said it in French. We're doing one finishing drill one time in training and he kept staying it, and I kept scoring, I was shooting with so much power and he was calling me little chilli in French.

"I didn't know what it was. I asked him after and he told me it means little chilli. From then on he kept calling me it and then it became a thing, and now it's a big thing, a lot of people call me it, and make it my nickname.

Bukayo Saka was given a personalised chilli necklace by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Saka was given a personalised chilli necklace by Aubameyang (a_jewellers/Instagram)

"Of course, he got me the nice chain he promised he would get me if we won the FA Cup – it's a show of how great a character he is and how important he is for me and I'd say for the team in terms of the happiness and the vibes in the dressing room.

"It's really nice. He'd done a good job with that. I'm grateful. I love it. It's unique."

Saka's own name could also be a sign for how much he will enjoy being part of the Euros. "It means God has added joy to my life. Joy, happiness, the same," he said of the name Bukayo.

"I am really excited, happy to be here. I have been given an amazing opportunity to play in a major tournament so every opportunity I get I am just going to give it my best."

Despite being handed his Arsenal debut by Unai Emery and flourishing under Mikel Arteta, Saka puts his development in north London down to Freddie Ljungberg.

The former Arsenal favourite worked with Saka during his progression through the ranks and during a short stint as interim boss in 2019 but is still offering advice today.

"He has been really good with me," Saka said of Ljungberg.

"From 14, when he took over my development, he challenged me in a way other coaches did not. He pushed me and saw my potential in a way other coaches did not.

"All the way to the under-23s he was still pushing me and even in the first team he was still helping me. Even till today. He has had a big influence on my career.

Saka praised the influence of Arsenal coach Freddie Ljungberg.
Saka praised the influence of Arsenal coach Freddie Ljungberg (Tess Derry/PA)

"He says different things. Because he was a winger himself he had a lot of experience himself and learning points to give me.

"He texted me the other day when I scored. He wrote, 'congratulations, and make sure you pack a few things that you would do at home and that will keep yourself entertained'.

"Because we have a good team he said he thought we were going to go far and be here a long time. Because we would have a lot of free time he wanted to make sure I would keep happy.

"It is not just the football side, he is a man who helps me with my personal life as well. He is such a top guy and I really appreciate that message from him."

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United StatesUnited States98825
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Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


ROWING
· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (3.15am-6.10am)

CYCLING
· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

DIVING
· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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