Raheem Sterling paid a touching tribute to a Crystal Palace youth-team player who died last weekend during England’s 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
Sterling delivered a tour de force display in England’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley, scoring a hat-trick and winning a penalty that was converted by Harry Kane.
After scoring his second goal and England’s third, Sterling lifted his jersey to reveal a t-shirt that had a picture of him and 13-year-old Damary Dawkins, who died on Sunday after a battle with leukaemia.
The Manchester City forward told ITV1: “Damary was a kid that I was trying to help and we thought that we found a donor. Sadly it didn’t match and he sadly passed away.
“I thought I had to do something to try to give his family something to smile about.”
He later added on Twitter: “Special night in so many ways RIP Damary, gone but u will never be forgotten.”
Sterling grew up in a house near to England’s national stadium so he was understandably delighted with his contribution towards a comprehensive victory.
Standing by the Wembley pitch, the 24-year-old said on England’s Twitter channel: “It was a great feeling, the most important was the first (goal) to carry on from the game I had against Spain. That was the best moment for me.
“I’m excited. I’m in my hometown, this is what dreams are made of, so I’m really happy to see it come true. We carry on, we’ve got a game on Monday (against Montenegro) and we need to follow up.”
While his excellent performance will garner headlines, Sterling was eager to pay tribute to young trio Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Declan Rice.
Sancho was handed his first competitive start by Gareth Southgate and teed up Sterling for his opener, while Rice and Hudson-Odoi had impressive cameos as they came off the bench in the second half for their England debuts.
Sterling added: “They’re playing for their clubs and they’re special talents, every single one of them. Jadon, I’ve seen numerous times and every time I’ve seen him I get excited.
“Callum has probably had a limited amount of games at Chelsea but he’s the same again, every time I’ve seen him I’ve been really excited.
“And also, Declan as well, he’s really mature and for a holding midfielder, he’s using the ball well. I’m just happy that they’re English to be honest with you.”