Young Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery has passed away following a battle with cancer.
Bradley, aged six, was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma in 2013 and the Lowery family were informed their son’s condition was terminal in December 2016.
Following this news, Bradley appeared as mascot for his beloved Sunderland on numerous occasions and also for the England national team for March’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, when he entered the field alongside his favourite player Jermain Defoe.
A statement on the Bradley’s Fight Facebook page read: “He was our little superhero and put the biggest fight up but he was needed elsewhere. There are no words to describe how heart broken we are.”
Sunderland also released a statement, paying tribute to Bradley, who “captured the hearts and minds of everyone at our club with his indomitable spirit, tremendous courage and beautiful smile, which could light up even the darkest of rooms.”
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 7, 2017
The statement also acknowledged his “special relationship” with Defoe, who was described as “heartbroken”.
“Despite battling neuroblastoma for much of his all too short life, he demonstrated a bravery and fortitude beyond his years that humbled us all. He was truly an inspiration,” the statement read.
“His heart-warming friendship with players and staff alike epitomised the impact this wonderful little boy had on everyone he met. He had a special relationship with Jermain Defoe and their feelings for each other were evident for all to see. Jermain, naturally, is heartbroken.”
Defoe was brought to tears when discussing Bradley’s condition a day earlier, following news that the boy had fallen into an unresponsive state.
Speaking at his first press conference since signing for Bournemouth, Defoe said: “He will always be in my heart for the rest of my life. There isn’t a day that goes past when I don’t wake up and check my phone or think about little Bradley.
“His love is genuine and I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me.”
Sunderland’s statement added: “Bradley’s story not only touched our club and our fans, but also the wider football community. Football can be a powerful force for good and our sport came together to embrace Bradley’s fight in a unique way.
“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to every club and fan who supported Bradley in recent months and showed such warmth and kindness to the Lowerys – we are truly grateful.”