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‘Unreal potential’: Sima’s rapid rise from farmland practice to Arsenal tie

Slavia Prague forward is hot property and Senegal international after rising from obscurity in France and Czech Republic

At the tail end of a harsh south Bohemian winter, the higher echelons of European football could hardly have seemed further away. Abdallah Sima was 18 when he arrived at FC Taborsko, then in the Czech Republic’s third tier, shortly before Covid-19 stopped play. Lodged in a rural apartment, there was little to do except train: so it was that Sima’s first two months were spent on a flattened patch of farmland, flanked by piles of chopped timber, kicking balls between cones with the former football coach who owned his accommodation.

On Thursday evening, though, Sima will step out at the Emirates Stadium as one of the most highly prized young forwards around. When Slavia Prague took him from Taborsko last July, he had yet to play a competitive match and the move was viewed as a punt: Sima would begin in the Czech champions’ B team and sink or swim from there, although his advisers were not shy in telling the Slavia hierarchy he would not require such a significant adaptation spell.

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