Jermain Defoe has big date at the Palace to pick up OBE for his services to charity

Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe with the OBE he was awarded in the Queen's birthday honours list. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe with the OBE he was awarded in the Queen's birthday honours list. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe had a VIP date at Buckingham Palace today - to pick up the most prestigious honour of his career.

The 36-year-old footballer was awarded the OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list, for services to the Jermain Defoe Foundation, which he founded in 2013.

Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is presented with the OBE he was awarded in the Queen's birthday honours list by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is presented with the OBE he was awarded in the Queen's birthday honours list by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

The charity was launched in 2010 after a hurricane in St Lucia, the Caribbean island his grandparents came from.

It hopes to open a home for abused and vulnerable children there, and has now expanded to help children in Dominica and the UK.

Defoe said the OBE brought mixed emotions, as he was proud, but also sad, as news of it emerged just days the first anniversary of the death of Bradley Lowery, the young Sunderland fan he befriended during his time on Wearside.

Today Defoe, who now plays for Bournemouth, received the honour from the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

The striker became a fans' favourite during two and a half years at Sunderland, where he scored 34 goals in 87 appearances.

Jermain Defoe with Bradley Lowery, the young fan he formed a special friendship with during his time at Sunderland.

Jermain Defoe with Bradley Lowery, the young fan he formed a special friendship with during his time at Sunderland.

But the most poignant memories of his time on Wearside involved the friendship he formed with Bradley, the young fan from Blackhall who had terminal neuroblastoma.

He described the youngster as his best friend, and carried him onto the pitch when he was the mascot for an England game at Wembley.

When Bradley was named Child of Courage at the Pride of North East Awards in May 2017, Defoe attended the ceremony, saying: "As a person he has changed me because of what he's going through at such a young age."

Sadly, Bradley died on 7 July 2017, at the age of six, and Defoe was among the mourners at his funeral.

He now has a Bradley Lowery tattoo as a permanent reminder of their special friendship.

Defoe left Sunderland in June 2017 after the club's relegation from the Premier League club, though only last week he was linked with a possible return to the Stadium of Light.

He has also played for West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth and Toronto FC in the MLS, in a glittering career which saw him win 57 full England caps, scoring 20 goals.