England international Bukayo Saka has teamed up with a charity to fund 120 life-changing operations for children in the city of Kano, in northern Nigeria.
The 21-year-old Arsenal winger, born in London to Nigerian parents, says he wants to have a positive impact in a country which he feels “very connected to”.
“I feel blessed to be in a position where I can contribute to making the children’s lives easier and better through these surgeries,” said Saka, who is with the Three Lions squad in Qatar ahead of the World Cup finals.
“For me, it is very important to use my abilities to have a positive impact where I can. I want to do more and more and help as many children as I can.”
The operations took place in mid-October, helping children with a range of health issues including inguinal hernias, umbilical hernias and brain tumours.
Saka teamed up with BigShoe, a charity which has helped more than 1,750 children around the world in need of life-changing medical surgeries since it was founded in 2006, for the initiative.
“I have to say a big thank you to the whole BigShoe team for making this possible,” Saka added in a video posted on Twitter.
“For me it is important that every child has the same opportunity to achieve their dreams.
“If I can do anything to help then I really want to do this, it was very important to me. It makes me happy when I can see the kids happy and their parents happy.”
Saka was a key member of the England side which reached the final of the European Championship last year, but missed a penalty in the shoot-out defeat by Italy.
He is expected to add to his 20 caps as Gareth Southgate’s squad face Iran, the United States and Wales at the World Cup in Qatar, with their Group B opener against the Iranians on Monday (13:00 GMT).
Officials from the Nigeria Football Federation had made a futile attempt to get Saka to commit the West African nation in 2019, but he opted to represent England and made his senior debut in October 2020.
The Arsenal youngster follows in the footsteps of former Nigeria international Jonathan Akpoborie, who brought doctors from Belgian non-governmental organisation reVIVE to Ozoro in Delta State last month, to help patients who could not afford treatment.
The former Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Hansa Rostock forward hopes the doctors can return in future, following the end of their mission in late October.
“The plan is to hopefully bring the doctors back again, maybe to Lagos where I grew up or where I see there is a real desperate need for help.” he told BBC Sport Africa.