At a press conference earlier in the week, amidst reports that six-year-old Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery’s condition was worsening, Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his composure.
The now former Sunderland striker was being officially unveiled to the press as a Bournemouth player, but he was asked about Lowery, with whom he had become close friends in recent months.
“It has been difficult. I have kept this in for so long,” Defoe said of Lowery, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma several years ago.
“I have tried to be strong for my family and his family but I don’t know how to put into words how I feel. It’s a special time, having that special time with Brads.”
“There is not a day that goes past where I do not wake up in the morning and check my phone or think about little Bradley because his love is genuine and I can see it in his eyes. It is special(via The Telegraph).”
Later that day, Bradley’s parents confirmed via Facebook that their son had passed away, leading to an outpouring of grief right across the football community.
Today, Defoe took to Twitter in order to pay touching tribute to Bradley, who had accompanied him onto the pitch as a mascot on multiple occasions, most notably ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley in March.
“Goodbye my friend gonna miss u lots,” wrote Defoe. “I feel so blessed God brought u into my life and had some amazing moments with u and for that I’m so grateful. I’ll never ever forget the way u looked at me wen I met u for the first time, the genuine love in those cute eyes.”
“Really finding it hard to find words to express what u mean to me. The way u say my name, ur little smiles wen the cameras come out like a little superstar and the love I felt wen I was with u. Your courage and bravery will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. You will never know what a difference you made to me as a person. God has you in his arms and I will always carry you in my heart. Sleep tight little one. My best friend.”
Sleep tight little one… 💙 pic.twitter.com/iGqLXdvlVi
— Jermain Defoe OBE (@IAmJermainDefoe) July 8, 2017