The family of a young footballer who died of leukemia were “pleasantly surprised” when Raheem Sterling lifted his shirt to reveal a picture of their late son.
Damary Dawkins passed away following a relapse when a stem cell operation before Christmas failed to prolong his life.
The 13-year-old, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was nine, played in Crystal Palace's development squad.
"It was a pleasant surprise," Damary's father Tony Dawkins told Sky Sports.
"I knew that they used to speak because [Sterling] came down to the hospital, they played pool together and apparently they swapped numbers.
"It was very, very touching and fitting. I know Damary touched his heart."
"I thought I had to do something to try to give his family something to smile about," Sterling told ITV.
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
Mr Dawkins said Damary's death had been "devastating" for the family and paid a moving tribute to his son, who had continued to play despite being under treatment for his cancer.
"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," Mr 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."
A GoFundMe page set up to help Damary's family with funeral costs has received more than £3,000 of donations following Sterling's tribute.
England are top of their nascent Euro 2020 qualifying group after Friday’s huge win against the Czechs.
In Group A’s other fixture, Bulgaria played out a 1-1 draw with Montenegro in Sofia after coming from behind with a late penalty.