With the nominations for one of the most prestigious awards in British sports announced last night, there is one name that should have been the first one on the team sheet. Jermain Defoe.
It’s not being too harsh to Defoe, who was relegated at Sunderland last season and now plays for struggling Bournemouth, to suggest he hasn’t hit the sporting excellence in 2017 of the likes of Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah, Anya Shrubsole, Harry Kane or Chris Froome.
However what his absence shows is that the list consisting of men and women from a variety of sports, each of them at the top of their game, is merited purely on achievement rather than personality.
If this was based on personality within sport, as the title of Sports PERSONALITY of the Year suggests, Jermaine Defoe‘s name would already be on the trophy.
Nobody has displayed more personality in sport than Defoe.
The touching friendship he struck with young Black Cats fan, Bradley Lowery, over the course of the season was as incredible as it was genuine. Bradley, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer stole the heart of the nation with his cheeky smile and innocence. Defoe said he was heartbroken when he discovered the brave child could only have weeks to live and regularly called Bradley’s family for updates.
Walking him out onto the pitch as a mascot with both England and Sunderland, and regularly visited him in hospital right up until he lost his brave battle with cancer in July, it was a friendship that away from the glamour of international games and public appearances, had an authentic bond between two families from completely different worlds. Speaking about Bradley in October, Defoe said: “I’ll never forget him. I still have messages on my phone – and videos.”
Defoe used his position for good and created mass awareness for the awful disease, which in turn helped raise over £100,000 for the Bradley Lowery Foundation which will be used to help find a cure.
The panel that chose the nominations for these awards need to seriously relook at the criteria for the nominations because Jermain Defoe embodies the essence of sports personality.
Let’s hope that the rumours that Defoe will win a special, separate award on the night, rather than the official accolade are true.
If not, the organisers have not just missed the target with this shortlist, they’ve failed to connect with ball at all.