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Thousands pay respects to mascot Bradley Lowery

Boy brought the out best in people, his funeral told

By Tom Wilkinson

Football mascot Bradley Lowery 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 yesterday.

England striker Jermain Defoe wiped away tears 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.

Fans lining the streets to applaud the cortege as it passed and release balloons as a tribute to Bradley wore kits from Sunderland, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Manchester United, West Ham, Bournemouth and Arsenal at the request of the family, to show that "cancer has no colours".

Sunderland players John O'Shea, Lee Cattermole, Vito Mannone and ex-manager David Moyes were among those packed into St Joseph's Catholic Church, where Bradley was baptised.

Father Ian Jackson led the service and paid tribute to his "wonderful personality", adding: "Bradley was a bright, brave, loving, cheeky monkey."

Bradley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the nervous system, when he was 18-months-old.

Last season he was mascot for Sunderland, Everton and England, striking up a remarkable friendship with Defoe, who left training in Spain with new club Bournemouth to be at the funeral.

Sunderland AFC's chaplain Marc Lyden-Smith told those in the church, plus the thousands of mourners who were listening to the service on speakers outside, that football sometimes gets a bad press - but not on that day.

He said: "Today the football world stands united, whatever our colours, to pay their respects to this incredible little boy with a huge personality.

"Bradley Lowery has done much more than just touch the hearts of so many football fans.

"His lasting legacy is that he has, with his pure and innocent love of the beautiful game, brought people together."

Fr Lyden-Smith praised Bradley's parents Gemma and Carl for the dignity and love they had shown throughout his ordeal.

Bradley's coffin was brought to the church in a horse-drawn carriage, led through the village by a piper playing Amazing Grace and followed by superhero characters. Spontaneous applause broke out when the coffin was brought out of the church and driven away for a private ceremony at a crematorium.

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