Bradley Lowery: Remembering the young Sunderland fan's impact on football and society

The six-year-old Sunderland fan touched the lives of millions in 2017.

Bradley Lowery: Remembering the young Sunderland fan's impact on football and society
Bradley Lowery warms up prior to a Sunderland-Chelsea match last season. (Source: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

2017 was full of ups and down for the footballing world, but one of the most heartwarming stories we saw this year was the beautiful bond that Jermain Defoe developed with 6-year-old Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery. Bradley, who suffered from a rare form of cancer known as neuroblastoma, captured the hearts of millions as the mascot for Sunderland and England games in the late months of 2016 and early 2017.

The six-year-old became a symbol of hope and his story united the football world, but sadly, Bradley lost his battle with neuroblastoma on 7 July. From December to July, Bradley’s bond with the now Bournemouth striker Defoe was unbreakable as the two became best friends and photos of them circulated the web at tremendous speeds. They were inseparable and their friendship taught us just how big of an impact a footballer can have on our daily lives. Bradley’s story was a break from the constant feed of football news, it was different and it inspired so many people around the world that it put into perspective the level of influence footballers have.

Football clubs, fans and players from all over came out to support Bradley during his fight and offered condolences after his passing. The way that Bradley was able to unite the football world was a sight to behold and his smile will undoubtedly be one of the high points of football in 2017.

An Inseparable Bond

Bradley and Defoe’s bond was genuine and anyone who saw it knew that there was a true connection between the two. After Bradley’s passing, it was tough to watch as Defoe became inconsolable during a press conference, but it spoke volumes about the deep connection that can form between a young boy and his hero. More often than not, we think of footballers as overpaid, egotistical adults who rarely have time for others, but Defoe’s friendship with Bradley showed us that footballers are more than just athletes we pay to watch, they are idols for many people.

For many people around the world, 2017 was a year full of more lows than highs, and the passing of young Bradley was a low for anyone who was able to witness the incredible impact he made during his time. His heartwarming appearances and infectious smile were a positive for the football world as he showed continued bravery in the face of adversity. Alongside his best friend Defoe, the two took the footballing world by storm and gave us reasons to smile, no matter how games turned out.

The story of Bradley will not be forgotten any time soon because it was a gentle reminder that the sport we know and love truly is beautiful. It’s these moments that show us that football can be more than a game to some people, especially Bradley in particular. Footballers have a far bigger influence on us than we think and Bradley’s relationship with Defoe shows the impact they can have on those who look up to them. On 17 December, Bradley parents were presented with the Helen Rollason award at the recent BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, thanking people around the UK who rallied around Bradley during his struggle. His fight inspired the the football world, but his friendship with Defoe showed us just what football can represent for us. 

Defoe can serve as a reminder and an example for plenty of footballers who surely know the impact they can have on fans from all over the world, both young and old. For Bradley in particular, his friendship with Defoe stole our hearts and he will never be forgotten for his positive personality and his non-stop bravery.