Jermain Defoe was awarded an OBE for his charity work before dedicating it to his ‘best friend’ Bradley Lowery.
The Bournemouth striker formed a relationship with six-year-old Bradley during his time playing for Sunderland, as the youngster battled a rare form of cancer.
The two would walk out onto the pitch together ahead of games and Bradley was regularly picked to be a mascot for his beloved Sunderland FC while Defoe was there.
Bradley died in July last year, but not before he and Jermain struck up a close friendship.
And now the 36-year-old has received an OBE for his work in the Jermain Defoe Foundation that supports homeless, vulnerable and abused children in St Lucia, which is his family’s home country.
Posting to Instagram once he’d received the award, he wrote:
Feeling honoured and blessed to receive my OBE today at the Palace
After he received the prestigious award, he dedicated it to Bradley, telling Sky Sports:
I would like to dedicate this to my little friend Bradley. Everyone knows the relationship I had with Bradley.I got this for my Foundation but I think above all of that this relationship I had with Bradley. I had great memories of Bradley – it still hurts.
But to receive something like this today it makes me feel good. I’m proud and happy. It’s special, so surreal. Even in the Palace I stood there like ‘wow this is really happening’, it’s an amazing, amazing feeling.
Earlier this year, following the announcement that he would be honoured with the award, Defoe took to Twitter to reveal how he’d happily give it all back.
The Bournemouth striker said he felt ‘blessed’ to receive such a prestigious award. However, he told fans he had ‘mixed emotions’ about it, saying ‘it isn’t for me or about me’.
In his tweet the striker wrote:
The proudest moment of my life to be awarded an OBE. I‘m blessed to have received the honour, but it isn’t for me or about me.
It’s for Bradley and those he loved. I’d trade it all for him to be back in our lives, forget the goals and awards, it’s the memories I’ll cherish…
The proudest moment of my life to be awarded an OBE. I‘m blessed to have received the honour, but it isn’t for me or about me. It’s for Bradley and those he loved. I’d trade it all for him to be back in our lives, forget the goals and awards, it’s the memories I’ll cherish…💙 pic.twitter.com/Dcxua0t7bC
— Jermain Defoe OBE (@IAmJermainDefoe) June 8, 2018
Continuing to express his sadness, Defoe told Sky Sports:
It’s obviously mixed emotions because obviously standing here [is] one of the proudest moments of my life, but at the same time remembering all the hurt.
I’ve got great memories of Bradley in my head but it wasn’t easy seeing someone that you love suffer like that, especially a young kid, where he didn’t really understand what was going on and you have to remain positive.
Defoe’s award comes just over a year after Bradley’s death. Bradley was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk Neuroblastoma in January 2013. Sadly, his cancer progressed quickly and the six-year-old died on July 7, 2017.
Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Bradley.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).