Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling will cover all the costs for the funeral of Crystal Palace youth player Damary Dawkins, who died last month aged 13.
Sterling became close to the youngster before he died of leukaemia, and also supported the campaign by Dawkins’ family to find a suitable stem cell donor for him.
The 24-year-old former Liverpool player is due to attend the service in Dagenham on Friday.
“Damary was a special young man who touched a lot of lives, including my own. Positive until the end, he was an example to us all,” Sterling said.
Sterling paid tribute to Dawkins by lifting his shirt to reveal a picture of the two of them together following his second goal in England’s 5-0 defeat of Czech Republic last month.
Dawkins’ father has previously discussed the relationship between the player and his son.
“I knew that they used to speak because [Sterling] came down to the hospital, they played pool together and apparently they swapped numbers,” he told the Press Association last month.
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“I remember when Crystal Palace played Manchester City and they [City] 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.
“[The shirt tribute] was very, very touching and fitting. I know Damary touched his heart.”