Raheem Sterling’s tribute to Damary Dawkins who died of leukaemia was a pleasant surprise for the family according to his father Tony.
Damary Dawkins was a 13-year old youth football player who played in Crystal Palace’s development squad.
He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was nine and he sadly died on Sunday after he relapsed twice following a stem cell transplant shortly before Christmas.
Raheem Sterling, who scored a hat-trick on Friday night against the Czech Republic, lifted his jersey after his second goal to reveal a picture of him and Damary Dawkins.
His tribute on the pitch to the youth player was a ‘pleasant surprise’ to the family, his father said after the game.
“It was a pleasant surprise. I knew that they used to speak because (Sterling) came down to the hospital, they played pool together and apparently, they swapped numbers,” said Mr Dawkins via FourFourTwo.
“I remember when Crystal Palace played Manchester City and they lost Damary put on his tracksuit with the Crystal Palace badge and took a picture to send to Raheem. They had banter with each other.
“It was very, very touching and fitting. I know Damary touched his heart.”
Special night in so many ways ☝🏾✨ RIP Damary, gone but u will never be forgotten. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AIJ0YVi5SY
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) March 22, 2019
He also paid tribute to his son who played football for two years whilst undergoing cancer treatment, saying Damary’s death had been devasting for the family.
“He fought to the end and I call him a soldier, I take my hat off to him. I’ve got nothing but respect for him,” Tony Dawkins said. “No-one knew until I said to somebody that he had cancer, they would have never believed it.
“He never, ever complained, he never moaned, all the time he just got on with it and did what he had to do to. He never really thought about himself, he just thought about others.”