Arsenal and Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno surprises nine-year-old fan from Dartford

Premier League footballer Bernd Leno has brought much celebratory cheer to a nine-year-old supporter undergoing chemotherapy.

The Arsenal goalkeeper paid a surprise visit to the home of Gunners fan James, from Dartford, who has a benign spinal tumor.

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno surprises cancer patient, 9

Leno, 29, and his wife Sophie traveled to Kent on Thursday to surprise the youngster and hand out gifts.

The shot-stopper posed for photos with James and his father and even answered questions from the youngster, who had gone through his last round of chemotherapy a day before the visit.

Shortly afterwards, the Germany international tweeted: “It was a pleasure to surprise this special little fighter.”

The family had only recently welcomed a child when they received the news of James’ diagnosis.

His meeting with Leno was made possible with the help of My Shining Star, a childhood cancer charity in Rainham, which provides emotional and financial support to families.

Arsenal fan James, 9, of Dartford, received a surprise visit from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Photo: Anita Marinelli

Anita Marinelli, who founded the charity and got in touch with the star, said: “It’s not every day that the Arsenal goalkeeper actually goes to a little boy’s house.

“I’ve cried and cried over this. Little James is nine and has a spinal tumor. The more surgeries he has to have to remove the tumor, the less feeling he has in his legs.”

The previous Pride in Medway winner praised Leno and his wife, who she said were a “dream to talk to”.

Anita previously hosted meet-and-greets for sick children, but this was the first time a footballer offered to travel all the way to the child’s house.

“They said they were really happy to go see him – I’ve never had that before,” she said.

“They were such a lovely couple and couldn’t do enough,” she added. “They were like, ‘Just tell us what you want us to do and we’ll do it’.”

*Due to some confusion between James’ family and the charity, an earlier version of this article reported that his tumor was cancer. We are happy to clarify that it is benign.

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