Last night, just like thousands of other Sunderland fans, I left the Stadium of Light feeling angry and frustrated. We had just been turned over 3-0 at home after a second half capitulation and surely face another season of struggle.
However, all these negative emotions were quite quickly eased after viewing one short video. The video in question was little more than thirty seconds long but it restored my faith in humanity and football. As I heard the words "one Bradley Lowery" being sung my heart was instantly warmed. As anyone who knows me will confirm I rarely show outward emotion, or have much room for sentiment but the unity and togetherness generated by Bradley’s fight genuinely moved me.
As the digital clock in the stadium struck five minutes I certainly had a speck of dust in my eye. Never before in a football stadium had I seen such an outpouring of collective emotion, during that minute the on pitch action seemed irrelevant as both Sunderland and Everton fans came together to support Bradley’s fight.
The social media reaction was also incredible - usually after a defeat, Twitter and Facebook are full of people airing their frustration over the performance, tactics and selections. Whilst there were still plenty of people commenting on the match, the overriding emotion seemed to be compassion and togetherness. Photos of Bradley standing with Defoe before the match were being shared everywhere, along with images of the young massive lads’ fan grinning from ear to ear.
We may have lost the match 3-0, but football and Sunderland AFC gave a very poorly young man and his family an evening they’ll never forget.
Although, I will never claim to be able to relate to the pain and suffering he and his loved ones are going through last night was a poignant reminder of the pure joy the beautiful game can bring.
We can sometimes forget the significance of football in our lives. Every week up and down the country it unites people who may only see each other on match days, it gives people an escape and provides hope.
The contribution of Everton Football Club has also been spectacular - shortly after the match they pledged a donation of £200,000 to Bradley’s fight as well as inviting him to be mascot for the return fixture. In the modern era where football clubs are condemned on a daily basis for being aloof and out of touch this was an extraordinary gesture.
Everton supporters also joined in the minute’s applause and have been very active in raising awareness on social media.
Rivalry is partly what makes football such a great sport but yesterday was one of those examples where sport can unite everyone. Last night, whatever colours we wore, we were all Team Bradley.