Jermain Defoe has been talked about as a cult hero around the clubs he has played, and on football sites like ours, but those were all on a footballing level, and personal to the fans of the teams involved.
But Defoe’s status in that regard is different to most.
He became a cult hero to everyone, up and down the country, even people who had no interest in football, and all because of his “best friend“, 6-year-old Bradley Lowery.
Everyone remembers Bradley, the cute smile, and beautiful eyes, in his Sunderland shirt, being carried by Defoe onto the pitch.
Bradley, of course, lost his fight against Neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer, but he won the hearts of fans and people everywhere.
The relationship built bridges off the field as well, with their rivals up the road in Newcastle. No one could ever remember a Newcastle crowd chanting the name of a Sunderland fan before, but that is exactly what happened when news broke that he had passed.
He united fans across the country, and Defoe even got a reminder of him etched onto his arm with a tattoo that simply says ‘Bradley’.
To see the two of them together, you would have thought it was father and son, and to see Defoe weeping at a pre-match press conference before a Bournemouth game — where he was now playing — as he spoke about him on the eve of his death, had the room and viewers welling up too.
Bradley was often mascot at the Stadium Of Light — where he even managed to score a penalty in the kick-in for which he was awarded Match Of The Day’s Goal Of The Month — but his, and Defoe’s, highlight was when he was invited to lead England onto the field against Lithuania at Wembley.
Defoe opened the scoring in that game, and it was a fitting way to celebrate the night.
What he did for Bradley, for highlighting the devastating disease and for uniting fans throughout the country, is something that he will be synonymous for, long after his playing days are over.
After his death, Defoe said of Bradley: “He was my best friend. He was genuine. He loved his football. He loved me and I loved him. There was nothing I could give him apart from just being a friend.”
Those are the words of a true footballing hero — and that is exactly what both Jermain Defoe and Bradley Lowery are.
We would love you to share your memories of Bradley and Jermain Defoe. Let us know what you remember seeing the pair of them together on and off the football pitch…
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