Later this month (Sunday 25th February), former Sunderland striker, Jermain Defoe, will be honoured for his positivity and commitment away from the football pitch at the North East Football Writers’ Association’s annual awards night.
Jermain is attending the event to receive the North East Personality of the Year trophy, a special award given in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to recognise someone who uses their position in football to benefit the wider community.
The player’s relationship with young cancer patient, Bradley Lowery, caught the hearts of the whole nation and helped raise awareness of neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer which affects less than 100 children in the UK each year.
Bradley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just 18-months-old and last year his mum, Gemma, shared the devastating news that the cancer was terminal. Bradley passed away in July surrounded by his family and friends.
Throughout the last year of his life, a special friendship developed between the six-year-old and Jermain, who was in turn supported by Sunderland AFC and team-mates including Seb Larsson, Vito Mannone and captain, John O’Shea.
In March 2016, Jermain was called up for England and Bradley was by his side as they proudly led the team out at Wembley.
Now with AFC Bournemouth, Jermain returned to the North East to spend time with Bradley at his County Durham home just before he died. Heartbreaking photos of the pair were posted by Gemma on social media, showing their strong bond.
A week later, Jermain came back again, this time to attend Bradley’s funeral. He wore his England shirt in honour of his young friend.
At that time, Jermain said: “The streets were like a carnival. The only thing that made me smile that day was seeing Newcastle and Sunderland fans together in their shirts and all hugging. That was powerful. I could never have imagined seeing that and a six-year-old made it happen.
“He only had a short life but maybe it was his calling to raise awareness of the cancer he was suffering from. He helped so many people. And he changed so many lives. Including mine.”
Held annually at Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham, the North East Football Writers' Association Awards night, sponsored by William Hill, celebrates the best of North East football. The event will, once again, raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which helps find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
The charity recently made a £1million contribution to fund clinical research and nursing posts at the new Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre at Newcastle University.
Sir Bobby’s widow, Lady Elsie, said: “Young Bradley obviously loved football and I’m glad it gave him such pleasure, even when he was very poorly. For his parents, I hope the support and love for Bradley from the football community has provided some small comfort after their dreadful loss.
“The special connection between Bradley and Jermain was apparent for everyone to see. I’m very proud that Jermain is receiving our award because it recognises his wonderful compassion and his commitment to helping other children with cancer in Bradley’s memory.
“The passion for football in this region means it has great power to do good. The friendship between Bradley and Jermain, and all the positive things that have happened because of it, is proof of that.”
Colin Young, secretary of the North East Football Writers’ Association, added: “The very special friendship between Bradley Lowery and Jermain Defoe touched the whole country. It started from a joint love of football and Sunderland Football Club and blossomed into a bond which was an inspiration to millions of fans across the world.
“We are delighted that the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation have rightly acknowledged Jermain and that he will be returning to the North East to collect the award at our annual dinner.”
The North East Football Writers’ Association Awards will be held on Sunday 25th February at Ramside Hall Hotel. Other recipients of awards include Men’s Players of the Year, Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie, Young Player of the Year, Jordan Pickford, and Womens’ Player of the Year, Victoria Williams.
There will also be special presentations to Newcastle United manager, Rafa Benitez, and non-league clubs Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town and South Shields.
Tickets to the black tie event are available now at £58 per person, which includes a four course meal and entertainment.
Please call Claire Stephen on 0191 375 3080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to book tickets.