Patson Daka: A man on the rise

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In Kafue, 25 miles south of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, retired footballer, Nathali Daka had carried his son, Patson along with him to watch Kafue Celtics play again. Sitting beside him was the club’s director, Lee Kawanu, who was also enjoying the show his team was putting up and he told First Time Finish that Nathali turned to him and said “Lee, one day you are going to be happy with my son. And he’s going to bring you big things”.

It seemed like a blanket statement from an over-enthusiastic parent, but the truth of the matter was that Nathali was an inspiring man – a father who gave credence to the fact that his son would take the world by storm one day. He could not do that himself since injuries forced him to hang his boots early.

Four years after Lee’s encounter with Nathali, he met Patson Daka again. Not watching the game with his dad but in action and making an impression. Lee Kawanu liked what he saw and immediately promoted the young boy to the first team.

Things were gradually taking shape for the teenager and his father’s words were coming to pass. Sadly, Nathali Daka passed away and did not get to see his son realize his dream. As crushing as it may seem, the young boy took motivation from it and channelled his energy into forging something great to make his late father proud and take care of his mother.

Patson was still playing for Kafue Celtics when Airtel launched a talent search programme called Rising Stars across 16 African countries to ‘identify and nurture talent from the grassroots level onto the international stage’. 

Many will call Patson lucky for taking part in this programme for he told The Guardian the trial was held behind his school and he only took part because he wanted to try. Less than ten minutes, was all it took for the lad to be selected. Impressive.

The teenager ended up as the top scorer of the tournament and caught the eye of the Zambia National Team coaches in the process.

The teenager was rapidly becoming a star and fulfilling Nathali’s ‘prophecy’ day by day. He was made the captain of the Zambia U17 team in 2014, it was a sign of greater things to come alright but like any other story, Patson begun to stumble on stones life had put in his way to success. He was loaned to Nchanga Worriers a team in the domestic top-flight.

“I played one season, scored two goals and gave one assist, I moved again to Power Dynamos, scored once in the first half of the season and the fans didn’t want me. At one point almost the whole country didn’t want to see my name in the national team. But then I started scoring in every game and came out top scorer for the club. That’s how things changed” he told The Guardian.

Patson had come too far to fail and the strong mentality he had adopted whilst he was growing up began to serve him well. In 2015, he met Frédéric Kanouté who took a special likening to him after watching his clips given him by Lee Kawanu.

The one time African Player of the Year was the founder of 12 Management a sports agency that was linked to RB Salzburg. At this moment, it was clear Patson was destined to rub shoulders with European greats. Scouts from RB Salzburg came to South Africa to watch him play in the COSAFA tournament in 2016. He knew his future depended on it and he had to do all it takes.

He proved to the scouts he was worthy and went on trial at Salzburg where he was kept on loan for six months at the club. Another time will come where he will have to convince the team to keep him permanently and he did so in 2016.

The U20 African Cup of Nations was held in 2017 and pressure was mounting on Patson because Zambia who hosted the tournament and wanted to win on home soil and sitting in the stands watching him critically was scouts from RB Salzburg.

He didn’t fold.

The rising star emerged player of the tournament, top scorer and beat Senegal to win the cup.

Patson Daka is a man who never backs down and is focused on his goal. In the U23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, he came on as a substitute and was booed by the fans. He was not fazed when the time came for him to score the winning penalty to take Zambia into the U23 AFCON, he took a deep breath and placed the ball coolly into the net.

He has proved time and time again that he never succumbs to pressure. At Red Bull Salzburg, he won seven trophies and ended the 20/21 season as top scorer with27 goals and the player of the season.

Patson Daka moved to English Premier League side, Leicester in the recent transfer window and is gradually becoming a weapon for Brendan Rodgers.

Making history by becoming the first Zambian to score in the Premier League shows signs of good things to come. Surely he could follow the footsteps of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and ringing the name of Africa throughout the world. He’s already won the Community Shield with Leicester and his nine-minute hat trick in the Europa League is the quickest by any player in history.

Patson Daka is striving to the best version of himself and an inspiration to others. He has kept his dad’s memory with him all along and believes he is proud of him.     

“He didn’t have the opportunities I have today, I feel I have achieved the dream he had for me, to see me play at a high level and come to Europe, and create my own legacy. It drives me every time because, wherever he is today, he is proud of me.” He told The Guardian.

By: Sakyibea Ofori|3Sports|Ghana