Bukayo Saka returned to London Colney earlier this week and could be in contention to start when the Gunners open the season against Brentford next Friday, August 13th. Per videos posted to Arsenal social media, he’s back in training with his teammates, and the Evening Star writes that he will “naturally hope to be involved” in the opener.
That’s nothing to go on RE: his availability. I’m guessing that Saka will at least make a cameo appearance in the friendly against Tottenham on Sunday, and I’d wager that he’s at least on the bench for the opener. I’d expect the Arsenal beat writers to ask Mikel Arteta after the friendly about whether he expects Bukayo to be ready for Brentford.
If I’m being honest with y’all, I just wanted to write about Bukayo Saka being back. Because who doesn’t love to get happy and excited about our Starboy. Earlier this week, the club posted a video of a wall full of messages of support for Saka that the club received in the wake of the abuse he received following his penalty miss in the Euro 2020 Final.
His reaction was just so pure and positive that it melted my heart. By far my favorite letter is the one he reads in the video, where the writer says he’d use his pocket money to buy Bukayo and ice cream and then would let him win playing 1-v-1 in the park before realizing that Saka would probably win regardless. He also had Arsenal deliver a new “Saka” kit to a young Gooner named Charlie as a thank you for a different letter.
On a more serious side of things, British police said on Thursday that they’d arrested 11 people who’d made racist comments towards Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford on social media with investigations continuing into additional accounts found to be owned by individuals in the U.K. In total, 600 comments had been forwarded to the football policing unit, about a third of which (207) met the threshold for criminal conduct. Of those, 123 came from accounts outside the U.K. and were passed along to the relevant authorities in other countries. That’s all per the above-linked article from The Washington Post.
Hopefully, Bukayo Saka has been able to put the miss in the penalty shootout behind him. I’m sure it’s not as easy to handle the racist abuse that he received or the realities of being a young black man in today’s society who knows that at any point, on any day, he could receive racist abuse.
He said as much in his social media posts in the days following the match, “I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms [Instagram, Facebook, Twitter] are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
As Tony wrote a few weeks ago and I’ll echo today — Bukayo Saka has been so incredibly impressive in how he’s handled everything. His class and poise makes it easy to forget that he’s still 19 years old. I certainly wasn’t that mature, self-aware, or composed at that age. And I’m not sure that even now I could say it any better or more eloquently than he did.
For those who have campaigned on my behalf and sent me heartfelt letters, wished me and my family well - I’m so thankful. This is what football should be about. Passion, people of all races, genders, religions and backgrounds coming together with one shared joy of the rollercoaster of football....
There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society and to the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win.
Love always wins.
Bukayo Saka makes me so proud to be a Gooner.