Zambia’s Fashion Sakala revels in opening win of FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Spartak Moscow forward discusses his journey from humble beginnings to the brink of the big time

Reveals he has modelled his style on Cristiano Ronaldo

“I can say I’m famous now, I think,” Zambia’s No10. said with a laugh. With a name like Fashion, it only feels natural.

The reason for this newly-confirmed fame was Fashion Sakala’s stylish solo goal against Portugal, which turned out to be a crucial one, as the African champions took an early lead in Group C at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017.

With the score locked at 0-0, though, he was a bit on edge when he got in at the break. “People expect a lot from me,” he told FIFA.com with a broad, ever-present smile. “Each and every person in Zambia is talking about me, so I was worried when I didn’t score in the first half. ‘Maybe my people are complaining about me!'”

But there were to be no frustrated fans at the final whistle, with Sakala having played a key role in the first and grabbing the second himself – leaving two defenders treading water before firing in at the near post – in their 2-1 win.

Now on the books at Spartak Moscow, the Jeju World Cup Stadium is a long way from where he began. Coming from rural and humble beginnings, raised in a Christian home over 500km from the capital of Lusaka, Sakala became the player he is through a pure love of the game, even if footballs themselves were hard to come by. Instead, he used a ‘chimpombwa’.

“A chimpombwa is made out of plastic [bags], where you wrap it together, as at that time we had no balls, so we used to make those,” he explained. “That’s how I started improving.”

While the chimpombwa were often crafted by his father, that is far from his only input in Sakala’s burgeoning career. “My dad is the best coach I’ve had in my life,” the forward beamed. “I’ve learnt a lot from him and he deserves the best from me. After this [interview] I will have to call and show my appreciation.”

These are regular occurrences and a similar pre-match phone call clearly had the desired effect, receiving advice from his dad, who used to play himself. “He was a very good player and some people say I’m not yet at his level, but I know I’m better than him now,” the 20-year-old laughed.

Considering Sakala’s chosen role model, his aspirations do not stop at simply being the best in the family. “I’m a player who is very much inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo.” A fact reflected by his series of stepovers in the lead-up to the game’s opener.

“My dad would always call me in to come watch him,” he fondly recalled. “[Now] I watch him before I sleep, when I wake up in the morning, I always trying to do what he does. Playing with chimpombwa have helped me to follow in his footsteps.”

He may not have reached a Ronaldo level of fame quite yet, but Sakala has certainly wasted no time in making himself known at Korea Republic 2017.

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