The mother of Bradley Lowery has led tributes from friends, family and football supporters up and down to the football loving six-year-old who captured the hearts of a nation during his battle with neuroblastoma cancer.
Bradley brought out the best in people with his “pure and innocent love of the beautiful game”, thousands of mourners at the six-year-old’s funeral were told.
England striker Jermain Defoe wiped away a tear after the service which brought Bradley’s home village of Blackhall, County Durham, to a halt.
He wore an England shirt with Bradley’s name and number 6 on the back, as mourners were asked to wear their football shirts with pride.
Mourners could hear the sound of Bradley singing during the service as he sang lyrics from the Charlie Chaplin song ‘Smile’ and the line ‘Superman got nothing on me’ from Charlie Puth’s ‘One Call Away’.
Bradley’s mother, Gemma Lowery, described him as “our superhero up in the sky” as thousands of people lined the streets of Blackhall, County Durham, ahead of the service at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, where the youngster was baptised six years ago.
A piper lead the horse-drawn carriage carrying his coffin through the village, which came to a halt to pay tribute to the little boy with the beaming smile.
Some released balloons as the cortege passed and a spontaneous round of applause broke out.
Mourners dressed in superhero costumes followed the funeral procession.
Defoe struck up a remarkable friendship with Bradley after the little boy appeared as a mascot for his beloved Sunderland.
Bradley died a week ago in his parents’ arms at home following a battle with the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
His family has suggested that those unable to make the public ceremony could wear the colours of their favourite team to work and school, and make a £1 donation to the Bradley Lowery Foundation.
In response, hundreds took to social media using the hashtag #CancerHasNoColours, and shared pictures of themselves in their kits, representing clubs from across English football and beyond.
One particularly poignant image was shared by Alan Strand, 47, a warehouse operative who was travelling on the number 10 bus in Sunderland when he saw a stranger wearing a Sunderland shirt with the word “Bradley” on the back.
“He was just a random stranger but I did get a lump in my throat, I can tell you. So sad,” he said.
Among the tributes posted on Twitter were photos from fans of Sunderland’s local rivals
Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool – as well as many more from other parts of the UK.
Spanish club Villareal posted: “Forever Bradley Lowery. We’ll never forget your courage. Rest in peace dear fighter.”