Patson Daka Scores Four As Leicester Kickstart Europa League Campaign Against Spartak Moscow

Patson Daka is loving life at Leicester City and he is cheering up a nation dismayed by another disappointing qualification campaign, according to the director of his boyhood club.

The young striker is back in his homeland to complete Zambia’s matches in World Cup qualification, with a home-game against Mauritania, followed by a 6,000-mile trip to face Group B leaders, Tunisia, on Tuesday.

And Lee Kawanu, the director of Kafue Celtic, a club 30 miles from the Zambian capital of Lusaka where it all began for Daka, says the Foxes forward will receive a good reception, despite the ‘Copper Bullets’ having almost no hope of going through.

Patson Daka is loving life at Leicester, where he scored his first goal against Man United

Patson Daka is loving life at Leicester, where he scored his first goal against Man United

Daka, whose appearances in the Premier League and Europa League are celebrated by his countrymen, is expected to be in the starting line up at the National Heroes Stadium, tomorrow,

Daka’s first top flight goal, the first by a Zambian in the Premier League, was a 91st minute strike in Leicester’s 4-2 win over Manchester United. It came after the Zambia’s World Cup bid had foundered in Malabo, West Africa, when they lost 2-0 to Equatorial Guinea.

‘It was a distraction’ said Lee Kawanu, the man who has helped direct Daka’s career, and has built Kafue Celtic up from the non-league to the Zambia Super League.

‘The whole country was united in excitement. You could feel it everywhere. Everybody was talking about it, including the president.’

There was more joy when Daka scored four against Spartak Moscow in the Europa League a week later and then his great friend and compatriot, Enock Mwepu, scored for Brighton at Liverpool.

Daka was the first Zambian to score in the Premier League and President Hakainde Hichilema was quick to congratulate him on his achievement in a tweet to the player

Daka was the first Zambian to score in the Premier League and President Hakainde Hichilema was quick to congratulate him on his achievement in a tweet to the player

Patson Daka, job well done. Very proud of you as a country. Continue making Zambia proud. pic.twitter.com/y73Fv7TKc7

— Hakainde Hichilema (@HHichilema) October 17, 2021
Daka presented his former club, Kafue Celtic with some new training kit, and is a regular visitor

Daka presented his former club, Kafue Celtic with some new training kit, and is a regular visitor

It is true that pride in the progress of Daka and Mwepu, who will miss the Mauritania game through injury, goes all the way to the top of Zambian society.

‘Patson Daka, job well done,’ President Hakainde Hichilema tweeted after Daka scored against United. ‘Very proud of you as a country. Continue making Zambia proud.’

Hichilema is a big fan of Daka and Mwepu, who has also graduated from Kafue Celtic, following their careers across Europe via his Twitter account.

It has not always been this way for Daka. A scintillating talent from a young age, he has represented Zambia at every age group and made his debut for the national team aged just 16.

Asked to play as a lone striker in his early games, the youngster faced an uphill battle in a struggling team. And when the goals did not flow Zambia’s supporters became frustrated believing he had been over-promoted by supportive officials. Boos rained down from the stands.

Zambian international followed up his goal against United with four versus Spartak Moscow

Zambian international followed up his goal against United with four versus Spartak Moscow

However, he has answered his critics many times since, including helping his country win the U20 African Nations Cup, after which he was named Africa’s Young Player of the Year.

He is proving himself to be a tough competitor, who can overcome adversity, but also a generous person off the pitch.

He has never forgotten his family and his ex-team mates and friends at Kafue Celtic, where it all began.

When he’s home he often visits his former club and Kawanu. Last time, he paid the players’ bonuses and brought football boots.

‘Luckily we won!’ Kawanu joked about the bonuses. ‘None of us expected it. He does stuff like that. He has helped with training kits and football boots.’

Brendan Rogers, Leicester City manager, congratulated Daka after his extraordinary effort

Brendan Rogers, Leicester City manager, congratulated Daka after his extraordinary effort

Daka deserves his success. His father, Nathali, himself a talented winger in the Zambian Super League and a strong mentor to his son, brought him to Kafue Celtic when he was aged 12 and he established himself in the senior reserve side by 14.

Daka’s dad died when he was a teenager. Naturally, it was a huge blow but the youngster stuck with his ambition to be a footballer, like his father, and under the guidance of Kawanu, he took up his first professional contract when he was loaned to Super League club, Power Dynamos, where he earned £25 per week.

‘When he was first scouted by a Super League team, I felt he was very young,’ recalls Kawanu

‘He was just 15. But when I asked him, he was eager to go and play. I said to him. 'I’ll only let you go if your salary goes straight to your mum'.

‘And he said 'I am Ok with that as long as I get to play'.’

Zambia (R) are destined to exit he FIFA World Cup in the second round of African qualifying

Zambia (R) are destined to exit he FIFA World Cup in the second round of African qualifying

Kafue Celtic director, Lee Kawanu (C), visited Daka (L) and  Mwepu at RB Salzburg in Austria

Kafue Celtic director, Lee Kawanu (C), visited Daka (L) and  Mwepu at RB Salzburg in Austria

That family-first approach has not changed.

‘He has been looking after his mother and older sister,’ added Kawanu. ‘He started on a small salary and eventually he got a bit more money.

‘While he was still here, he managed to build a flat for his mother. He was investing every penny he got for the family. He is a good boy.’

Daka moved first on loan to FC Liefering, the feeder club to RB Salzburg, before joining the Austrian Bundesliga champions and talent factory in 2017, aged 20 for £225,000.

After scoring 34 goals in 42 appearances last season, he earned a move to the King Power. Mwepu followed a similar path before joining Brighton.

When set out on a page the journey may sound simple, but in reality, the two young players blazed a trail.

While, inevitably, Barcelona run an academy in Zambia, there is very little tradition of other European clubs scouting this corner of southern Africa, compared to other regions, such as Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast in western region of the continent.

Daka signed for Leicester for £23M after a successful four-year spell at RB Salzburg

Daka signed for Leicester for £23M after a successful four-year spell at RB Salzburg

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There was no pathway for players and little expertise among coaches and clubs about how to manage such a move. However, Kawanu connected with former West Ham and Tottenham striker, Frederic Kanoute, who is from Mali.

Kanoute has developed his own player agency and helped Kawanu and the players navigate unchartered waters. Kanoute had contacts at Salzburg, who sent scouts to Lusaka to see the players for themselves. They liked what they saw.

Crucially, Kanoute helped Kafue Celtic structure the deals, which include sell-on clauses that are vital to African clubs since it is often the second move that is the most lucrative. Daka signed for Leicester for £23M and Mwepu for Brighton for in excess of £20M.

The moves have worked out spectacularly well for the players and Kafue Celtic.

'Patson loves it at Leicester and Enock at Brighton,' says Kawanu, who speaks to them every fortnight and around big games.

'RB Salzburg is the best thing that could ever happen for both of them. And Leicester is the best team Patson could have gone to - the environment, the coach, the players like Jamie Vardy and James Maddison.' 

Meanwhile, under the watchful eye of Kawanu, Kafue Celtic is transforming into a talent development centre for young players. Many others are benefiting from Daka and Mwepu’s journey.

Enock Mwepu scored a stunning goal for Brighton at Liverpool in a 2-2 draw in October

Enock Mwepu scored a stunning goal for Brighton at Liverpool in a 2-2 draw in October

The goal was another source of pride in Zambia and at Mwepu's former club, Kafue Celtic

The goal was another source of pride in Zambia and at Mwepu's former club, Kafue Celtic

‘We were a small team run from my personal pocket,’ said Kawanu, a former official of the Zambia FA, who runs a construction business as well as a football club.

‘We are now in the Super League, competing with the ‘big guys’, and we can meet our budget.’

The staff of the club has increased three-fold with physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coaches.

The transfer fees, which are structured over a number of years and provide a steady income, are also paying for a new academy and scouting network

‘Hopefully we can show that Patson and Enoch have not been a fluke,’ added Kawanu, modestly. ‘Players like them exist here and they just need the right environment. Both those players have made a huge difference. The bulk of what we have achieved comes from them.’

Kafue Celtic are currently ninth in their first season in the Zambian Super League, having won three and drawn four of their 10 matches. On Sunday, they face Red Arrows, a team sponsored by the Zambia air force, which sits six places below them.

Kafue Celtic's senior squad, which is competing in the Zambia Super League for the first time

Kafue Celtic's senior squad, which is competing in the Zambia Super League for the first time

Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-10195351/Leicester-Citys-Patson-Daka-national-treasure-Zambia-scoring-against-Man-United.html

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