During times of personal hardship, professional athletes often seek temporary refuge on the playing field. Some pains, though, are too sharp to be dulled by the exertion and immediacy of competition. On Tuesday, Billy Sharp took the field for the Doncaster Rovers with no intention of distracting himself from the tragic death of his two-day-old son. On the contrary, Sharp wanted to use the match as a stage to honor his son's memory.
Sharp was not expected to play following the death of his son, Luey Jacob Sharp, but the striker caught Doncaster manager Dean Saunders by surprise when he called asking if he could suit up for the squad's Football League Championship match against Middlesborough.
"He rung me and asked if he could play -- he wanted to play," Saunders told The BBC. "He wanted to score a goal for his son and his family and he was ready to go. When he said that to me I couldn't really refuse."
Prior to the match, Sharp requested a message be read to supporters, which would be followed by a minute of applause. The message read: "This is a minute's applause to celebrate the short life of Billy and Jade's son Luey Jacob Sharp. Born 27th October, taken by the angels on the 29th. Sleep tight son."
While just playing in the match showed tremendous bravery on Sharp's part, 14 minutes in, he scored an emotional goal to put his side on top. In celebration, he lifted his jersey up to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with the message,"That's for you son."
While revealing a message underneath one's jersey is considered a cautionable offense, referee Darren Deadman had to the good judgment to not give Sharp a citation in this instance.
Despite it counting against his side, Middlesborough manager Tony Mowbray was still very happy for Sharp.
"It's amazing to think for anyone who's had children the emotional drain that must have been with him -- I couldn't put it into words," expressed Mowbray. "For him to score a wonder-goal, your headlines should be there really -- a goal from heaven."
Following the match, Sharp posted several tweets about the goal:
Middlesborough ultimately came from behind to defeat Sharp's Doncaster side 3-1 but in the scheme of things, the final score of the match seems to be the least significant aspect of the evening.