Many things divide us in football. Different clubs, conflicting opinions and burning rivalries are all part and parcel of this diverse game. And it’s rare that we, as fans, feel universally united. Yet nothing could seem more untrue when it comes to the recent plight of one truly inspiring boy.
Tragically, this week brought news that has sent the world of football into mourning. The heartbreaking passing of Bradley Lowery is being felt by everyone who found themselves engaged, moved and inspired by the young lad’s story.
For football fans across the country, Bradley became a source of wonder. When he developed Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, aged just 18 months, Bradley’s world changed immeasurably.
But, with a will and strength not found in most toddlers, he beat it. For a year or so, Bradley kept the cancer at bay and fought it off with amazing grit.
Sadly, in July 2016, it came back. Despite astonishingly motivated efforts from Bradley, his family, and the wider footballing community, this battle was one Bradley could not fight forever. This week, it had to finish. After four exhausting years, Bradley Lowery will finally be able to rest and be in the peace he deserved.
But his legacy, and we’re not being hyperbolic, will live on nationally in his absence.
— ALS: SAFC FANZINE (@ALS_Fanzine) June 28, 2017
How many six-year-olds can be said to have achieved that?
Because the world of football was, without doubt, changed by the life of this young man.
It’s all too easy to focus on the saddening loss of life in situations like these, but thanks to Bradley’s fight, we can rejoice and focus on the abundance of life shown among our sport.
A dedicated Sunderland fan, along with the rest of his family, football became a source of support and relief for Bradley. Becoming Jermain Defoe’s best-mate, England and Sunderland’s team mascot and Match of the Day’s goal of the month winner must have been the most amazing and happy moments for a young football lover to experience.
And we fans experienced every minute with him.
His life, fight and story had an incredible rippling effect upon football, and it saw clubs and fans alike unite like never before.
Social media was awash was warm and sincere messages for the young man, fans would chant his name with passion and people across the country dug into their pockets to help support the little fella.
Bradley’s mum, Gemma, helped to raise an astonishing campaign for Bradley that looked to raise £700,000 for treatment. She is now in the process of establishing a charity to help other children in Bradley’s situation.
My two boys, my world, my everything ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/Nyzb4CuJlQ
— Bradley Lowery (@Bradleysfight) June 28, 2017
Never once did Bradley, whilst very much in the public eye, seem to express anything other than glee in the moments he got to enjoy. Despite what must have been an agonising time, he only smiled. And it will be this smile that football fans will synonymously associate with the immense happiness that football can bring.
It may have taken Bradley’s fight to show it, but football can raise a smile at the lowest of times. For the Lowerys, the outpouring of warm and heartfelt support from the footballing world must have been a comforting candle in the overwhelming dark.
The family even had to call for an end to the vast number of Christmas (and later, birthday) cards that seemed to not stop flying in through the post.
And the majority of those cards and wishes came from football fans who would never meet Bradley or his family in their lives.
They came from the very same blokes you see in the pub pre-game, macho-ing it up in front of the lads. Bradley’s amazing journey brought often stern footballing fanatics to the point of being so moved that they reached out to a family they would never know, never be able to speak to and, often, never be able to hear the thanks that they offered.
And that, though we don’t often witness it, is due in part to the power of football.
It sounds painfully clichéd, but football truly is a uniting force.
With an eternal thanks to the inspiring life of Bradley Lowery, our lives were all touched by football’s full effect. The coming together of the footballing world was an emotional and heart-warming sight in a sport renowned for its division.
And it was all down to one brave young man. He may now have ended his struggle, but Bradley Lowery’s effect on the world of football and subsequently the lives of millions, will never see an end. Some of the fond memories that he’s left behind are held by people who hadn’t heard his name until last season.
And that is a truly astonishing fact.
So, though you don’t need us to say it, but obviously everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Bradley Lowery, especially from us here at CLICKON.
Sometimes it’s good to see through all the negativity in football, straight through to the beaming face of one inspiring young man.
Bradley Lowery shook, moved and united our beloved sport. And we are all grateful for it. What a truly amazing legacy.
Fans breaking into the “One Bradley Lowery” chant at tonight’s match to honour the 5-year-old’s cancer battle pic.twitter.com/apPeaYJmg7
— Katy Wheeler (@KatyJourno) September 12, 2016