Summer of sadness is driving me, insists Spurs striker Defoe
22:16 GMT, 4 September 2012
From the darkness of personal tragedy comes Jermain Defoe, a new man and a new footballer with a determination to savour every second of his career at the top.
It has been a sad summer for Defoe, first the death of his father at the age of 49 and then his cousin, just days before her 21st birthday and it has, he believes, changed his outlook on life and football.
‘I am living the dream,’ said Defoe. ‘When I was a kid I always wanted to play for my country and now I am here I will enjoy it. That’s it. Life is short. While you are here it is important to enjoy the good times.
Driven: Jermain Defoe wants to enjoy every moment at the top
‘When you are young nothing is more
important than football but as you get older, you get married, have kids
and lose people. Then you realise your family is more important. This
comes with age.
‘Family is important, especially when you have lost your dad and your cousin. It’s normal to think like that.’
As Defoe prepared for the European
Championships at England’s training base in Hertfordshire, in May, he
would visit his father Jimmy each day in hospital in West London, where
he was being treated for throat cancer.
The squad were in Krakow, in Poland,
when he died, just a few days before England played France in their
opening game of the tournament. Defoe flew home before returning for the
game in Donetsk and came on as a second-half substitute.
He flew home for the funeral after the
final group game against Ukraine and then joined the team again for the
quarter-final against Italy in Kiev.
‘It happens in life,’ said Defoe. ‘You
get disappointments in life and then everything turns good but it has
been difficult for my family. It’s been hard, especially with my dad.
‘From day one, when he was diagnosed, I
was with him from the first meeting in the hospital. I am only 29 and
to deal with that was quite difficult. I had to tell dad: “It will be
okay and be positive, keep praying and have faith”.
‘We had a training camp and every
afternoon I got a car to go to the Royal Marsden, where I’d spend a few
hours with my dad. The manager said: “Make sure you see your dad every
afternoon and be back for the meetings.” That was really nice.
Keep the faith: Defoe told his dad to stay positive
‘I’ve always known about cancer but to
be around someone who has cancer and to see what it does in such a
short space of time was mad. It makes you think about your life.
‘I have a big family and we have
always been close. It does make you think about life and what is
important. If you have an argument with someone and you sulk, sometimes
you don’t want to speak to them. But it is important to keep your
friends close to you and do the right things.’
It was not the first time the family
had been hit with tragedy. Two years ago, Defoe’s half-brother Jade was
killed in a street attack at the age of 26. Then the curse struck again.
Defoe was on tour with Tottenham in
the United States when he heard of his cousin Hannah’s fatal accident.
She had been on holiday in the Caribbean when she jumped into a swimming
pool and was electrocuted.
‘I have never heard of that before,’
said Defoe. ‘She was only 20 and when that happened you start to ask:
Why is this happening You have to be strong. I was in America and had
to fly home again to be with my family. It has been hard.
History: Defoe's family has been hit by tragedy before
‘The only time I am really at peace is
when I am training and playing. Obviously when you are on your own you
start thinking stuff. You think about your life. You don’t know for sure
whether you will be here tomorrow.’
When Defoe scored the winner in last
month’s friendly against Italy, in Switzerland, he dedicated the goal to
Hannah. It would have been her 21st birthday on the day of the game.
It was his 16th goal for his country
in only 17 starts but it was his 49th appearance overall and he will
take great pride if he reaches the half-century in Moldova on Friday.
With Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney
out, he might start for the first time in two years, since he suffered
an ankle injury in Switzerland four days after he struck a thrilling
hat-trick against Bulgaria at Wembley.
‘To win 50 caps would mean the world,’
said Defoe. ‘It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,
speaking with my family and stuff. It’s a good achievement. Not many
players can say they’ve done that.
‘I can remember the first one, coming on against Sweden away when we lost 1-0, and my first start in Poland, when I scored.
‘It’s been ups and downs. At times it
has been frustrating and I’ve had great moments. Scoring the hat-trick
for my country was fantastic and 50 caps is a dream.’