Ex-England footballer Jermain Defoe retires as a “legend”, the mother of the little boy with whom he forged a remarkable relationship has said.
Sunderland mascot Bradley Lowery moved the football world with his brave battle against a rare childhood cancer, dying in 2017 aged only six.
England's Jermain Defoe with mascot Bradley Lowery during the World Cup Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium. Adam Davy
He and Defoe became firm friends after Bradley made a lasting impression on the star striker while performing mascot duties for the Black Cats.
He even walked out on the Wembley pitch next with his “best mate” when Defoe was recalled to the England side.
Defoe would frequently visit Bradley in hospital when he was severely ill, and was among the thousands to attend his funeral, which brought the boy’s home village of Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, to a halt.
Even after leaving Sunderland for the first time, Defoe remained close to Bradley’s family, and is a patron of his foundation which helps other sick children.
After Defoe announced his retirement at the age of 39, Bradley’s mother Gemma said: “Jermain is a legend.
“Like all Sunderland fans, we will be sad to see him leave the game.
“We are so grateful that football brought Jermain into our lives and we will hold the memories with Brad forever.
“I will continue my friendship with Jermain and we look forward to continuing to work together with him in his role as a patron of Bradley’s foundation.”
Last year Defoe said he has pictures of Bradley in his house and still thinks of his young friend every day.