FASHION SAKALA earned a Presidential seal of approval and became the new darling of the Rangers support on Sunday.

And his exploits at Ibrox could see him become the inspiration for a generation of Zambian kids as he looks to establish himself under the guidance of Steven Gerrard this term.

Sakala kick-started his Rangers career and the champions’ title defence with a hat-trick against Motherwell that earned Gerrard’s side a comprehensive 6-1 victory.

His scoring exploits saw him congratulated by Hakainde Hichilema, the President of the Republic of Zambia, on his arrival in Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference.

Hichilema took to Twitter to highlight Sakala’s achievement in the hours after his efforts at Fir Park that moved Rangers four points clear of Celtic in the Premiership title race.

The exploits of the 24-year-old were not just picked up by his President. Back in his homeland, Sakala’s every move is analysed by a population that have a new generation of heroes to put their faith in.

The striker has previously detailed his difficult but inspirational journey in the game. It is one that would take him from the city of Chipata to Ostend, via Moscow, and now he calls Glasgow home from home.

It has taken Sakala time to settle into his new surroundings in Scotland but the smile that beamed across his face on Sunday afternoon was proof that he is happy on and off the park.

He would thank God for the hat-trick against the Steelmen and praise the support he has had from Gerrard and his staff and the team-mates that have welcomed him. As he was serenaded by the travelling Rangers fans, it was clear to see just what the occasion meant to him.

Thousands of miles away, his accomplishments were celebrated by friends and family and those who look up to him as one of the bright stars of Zambian football, as an example to follow as others dare to dream.

Zambia currently sit in 87th place in the FIFA World rankings and are behind the likes of Iraqi, Uganda and Syria. Their standing may be lowly, but their enthusiasm for the game is growing and Sakala is one of the up-and-coming talents.

Aaron Mubanga Jr is the editor in chief of the ZamFoot website, a resource dedicated to covering the domestic and international game and raising the profile of the players who have taken their talents across the world in search of success.

And the story of Sakala’s rise and rise at Rangers will act as a source of encouragement for his countrymen as the people of Zambia track a career that has taken him from humble beginnings to become a hat-trick hero.

“ZamFoot started back in 2007/2008 because our founder saw a gap in information about Zambian football,” Mubanga Jnr told Herald and Times Sport. “It has grown over the years to become the biggest of all local football websites.

“Zambian people are very passionate about football. Everything stands still for football, that is how much the beautiful game is loved here.

“There is a lot of talent here but there are not as many opportunities for young players. Though things are improving, we still have very far to go.

“The facilities are not that great, the good ones are few in number and mostly young players have to endure playing on dusty pitches for them to get to the top. The raw talent is very abundant though.

“It is difficult to get to Europe but with the recent exploits of our players in various European leagues things are looking up.

“Fashion is a big inspiration to a lot of young players here and they look up to him. Looking at his humble beginning it gives many young players hope.”

Sakala arrived at Ibrox in the summer as a relatively unknown prospect but his time with Spartak Moscow and Oostende – where he scored 16 goals last term – pointed to a potential that Gerrard is now seeking to unlock.

He would start his Rangers career in remarkable fashion with a strike in the pre-season victory over Real Madrid but he had just one competitive goal to his name before he was given the nod on Sunday.

That, ironically, came against Motherwell at Ibrox. His effort that day was only enough to earn Rangers a point, but his Fir Park endeavours inspired the champions to all three.

It was a performance that Gerrard had always backed Sakala to produce when the timing was right. It was one that made headlines in his homeland as well as Scotland.

“The whole nation is behind him, cheering him on and wishing him all the best and hoping he has a lot of success at Ibrox,” Mubanga Jnr said.

“The move to Rangers was very exciting for all of us back home as it signified the start of great things.

"Working with Steven Gerrard, a player we and Fashion watched win the Champions League, it was a great moment for the nation to get one of us on the books of Rangers.

“Yes, we all keep up to date with what is happening at Ibrox now, the fans back home get so furious when he does not start and keep waiting for him to come on.

“When he scored the hat-trick it was amazing for the fans here and it gave us so much excitement.”

The coming months will give Sakala the chance to enhance his reputation with Rangers as Gerrard’s side bid for domestic silverware and look to improve and impress in the Europa League once again.

He has aspirations at international level too and scored his second goal for the Chipolopolo against Equatorial Guinea last month.

Alongside the likes of Leicester kid Patson Daka, Sakala is one to watch in the the Zambian game as the nation seeks to build for the future and rise to prominence in Africa once again.

“He is already an important player for us,” Mubanga Jnr said. “The fans look forward to him, Patson Daka, Emmanuel Banda, Klings Kangwa and Enock Mwepu coming home to represent the nation. They are now the core of the team.

“The realistic ambition as of now is very low given that we have missed three AFCON tournaments.

"But with Fashion and the European based contingent now firing on all cylinders there is renewed hope that maybe, just maybe, we may be able to repeat the 2012 AFCON triumph in the near future.”