Bukayo Saka became the youngest person ever to win the award
Footballer Bukayo Saka turned up at Ealing Council in a smart tuxedo yesterday to receive an award. The Arsenal star was awarded the Freedom of the Borough in his home town of Ealing by the council.
The council wanted to recognise Saka for “his talent and achievements in the world of football, both for Arsenal FC and the England national team, and the inspiration he has given to all young people in Ealing”. Proposing Saka for the award at a fancy council ceremony held at Ealing art gallery Pitzhanger Manor, Peter Mason said: “It gives me immeasurable pride to be able to, in the presence of him, to move Bukayo Saka be awarded the freedom of our borough.
“Someone who has in the blink of an eye progressed from the incredible GCSE results at Greenford High playing on Brentside Fields to the top flight of football and representing our nation at Wembley.” Referencing Saka’s penalty kick, Mason added: “When you stepped forward to take that penalty, you took with you onto your shoulders the weight of the entire nation.
“The real test was not what happened next, the real test was that you stepped forward.” Saka’s penalty kick was saved by the goalkeeper, with England losing the game to Italy as a result.
In the aftermath of the final, Saka, along with teammates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, was subjected to racist abuse online for missing the penalty. Acknowledging this, Cllr Mason added: “We are sorry that you experienced what you did.”
Stepping up to receive the honour, Saka said: “First of all I just want to thank God for the gift he has given me to be able to stand here in front of everyone today. I also want to thank everyone who has believed in me as worthy of this honour.
“I know how lucky I am to receive this award so I’m really grateful for your support and of course I am so proud to have been born and grown up in Ealing. I hope that throughout my journey I can continue to inspire the young people that grow up here and inspire them to achieve their dreams.”
Saka is the youngest person ever to have received the Freedom of the Borough in Ealing. Speaking exclusively to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Saka said: “I am so grateful to receive this special honour.
“I always say how proud I am to be born in Ealing and London, and I hope that throughout my career I can inspire more young people of Ealing, London and beyond to achieve their dreams and never give up. I would love to see the young people of Ealing continuing to have more opportunities to explore their potential in life, through support of the community, sport, education and work opportunities.”