Fashion Sakala proving tailor-made for Al Fayha

It didn’t take long for Fashion Sakala to become very much in vogue at Al Fayha.

The Zambian international had become a fan favourite in Glasgow, Scotland, where he played with Rangers – a spell in which he plundered 21 goals across the past two seasons. It was little wonder, then, that Sakala admitted he departed Glasgow for Al Majma'ah, about 200 kilometres north of Riyadh, with a heavy heart.

Swapping the famous blue of Rangers for the bright orange of Al Fayha, it didn’t take long for the striker, who arrived in Saudi Arabia in the days before the opening round of the 2023-24 Roshn Saudi League, to make an impact: in his first match, he helped Al Fayha to a 3-1 win at home against Al Khaleej.

“I really appreciate the welcoming I have received here in Saudi Arabia, and I am happy to be here,” Sakala said on the sidelines after the game. “Obviously it’s not easy, I just came two days ago, to come direct and to play is not easy.

“But I am very happy that we won the game. The most important thing for us is the three points and I am very proud of the performance of the team.”

If that wasn’t enough to endear himself to the Al Fayha faithful, he backed it up a week later away to Al Hilal, somewhat souring the unveiling of Brazilian legend Neymar.

Opening the scoring on 15 minutes to quieten the capacity crowd at the King Fahd International Stadium, Sakala’s effort meant Al Fayha escaped from the eventual champions with a valuable point - just one of two matches in which Al Hilal dropped points all season.

It was a sign of things to come for Sakala, who ended the season with 19 goals. He ranked equal third in the race for the Golden Boot, quickly establishing himself as one of the most fearsome forwards in the league.

Born in Chapata, a small city in the east of Zambia, Sakala always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. Like all boys his age in the football-crazed country, he would find any space to kick a ball, dreaming of making it big in the world of football.

He looked for any opportunity to showcase his talent, riding by bike with his father for football trials as a 15-year-old in the hope that someone would spot his talent and take a chance on him.

Eventually they did, and after playing locally for a few years, his big break came when Spartak Moscow gave him an opportunity in 2017. Having worked his entire life for that one, potentially life-changing chance, it wasn’t one he was about to let slip.

From there came a move to KV Oostende in Belgium where, in his third season at the club in 2020-21 - a season in which he shared a changing room with Al Ettifaq defender Jack Hendry - Sakala concluded the campaign as their top scorer, with 13 goals.

While Hendry was on loan from Celtic, it would be to the other side of Glasgow that Sakala transferred next, with then-Rangers manager Steven Gerrard taking an instant liking to the new recruit.

"He fits our profile and has the attributes to, not only thrive in Scotland, but on the European stage as well," Gerrard said.

In a freak twist of fate, it was against Gerrard and Hendry that Sakala enjoyed one of his best performances in the RSL last season. He scored twice as Al Fayha defeated Ettifaq 2-1 away in Matchweek 30.

Now 27, Sakala is living proof that football can take you all around the world. From Zambia to Russia to Belgium to Scotland and, currently, to Saudi Arabia.

Fifteen-year-old Sakala, riding his push bike to football trials, surely couldn’t have dreamt of how his life and career would actually turn out, from playing on dusty pitches in his homeland, to sharing the pitch in the revamped RSL with some of the biggest names in football.

It’s why his motto that he shares on almost all of his social media posts reads: ‘Dreams Don’t Die’. After a dream debut season, his tag line seems set to get a lot more run outs yet.