'Talking about it gives me goosebumps' - Bonne on why he wears No.18 shirt
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Macauley Bonne has revealed the powerful meaning behind him wearing the No.18 shirt. The Ipswich Town striker opens up in an emotional interview.
There's no easy way of telling this story.
In the early 90's a young couple moved from Zimbabwe to England to access the required medical facilities for their newborn disabled daughter.
Ipswich residents took the family to their hearts, raising enough money to buy a special wheelchair for Laiken.
She died, age 12, through tragic circumstances. Her younger brother was just nine at the time. His name is Macauley Bonne.
When the Ipswich Town striker met Maddy last week, a 13-year-old Blues fan with cerebral palsy who recently underwent emergency brain surgery, it therefore struck a chord.
And it's prompted him to open up about his painful past.
- 1 Andy's Angles: Six observations after Ipswich Town's 2-1 win over Fleetwood
- 2 Revealed: The most expensive towns to buy a home in Suffolk
- 3 'Unique' café with 250 plus board games to play will open soon
- 4 Man in his 50s dies after head-on collision on A143
- 5 How Suffolk are you? Take our quiz to find out
- 6 Ambulance service apologises after woman left lying on Cornhill for 2 hours
- 7 Hadleigh home with loo in master bedroom hits the market
- 8 Business units set to be converted into new seafront flats
- 9 'One of the favourites for the division' - Fleetwood boss Grayson on Town
- 10 Ratings: How the Ipswich Town players performed in their 2-1 Fleetwood win
"Meeting Maddy brought back a lot of memories about my sister," he said, in an interview with the club programme.
"When I was a kid and I came on trial at Town, I idolised Darren Bent. He was in Chantry occasionally and I bumped into him a few times. So I had an '18 Bonne' shirt which I wore to my first ever trial here, when it was the EON shirt.
"Sadly, in 2005, my sister, Laiken, passed away. Something that was precious to me was my Town shirt, so I thought that there was nothing better to give to her to remember me by than that.
"When we buried her I put the the shirt on her chest and she was holding it, so to this day she's still got it in her arms. Talking about it gives me goosebumps.
"I don't speak too often about this kind of subject, but seeing Maddy the other day brought it back to me a bit."
Bonne is currently living a real life Roy of the Rovers storyline.
Released by his beloved Blues at the age of 14, he 'cried his eyes out'. Fast-forward little more than a decade and he is back, on loan from QPR, and scoring for fun.
His winner in Saturday's 2-1 home win against Shrewsbury made it nine goals in his first 11 appearances for the club.
And he's doing it will the number 18 on his back.
"I've never really been asked which shirt number I'd want, but in the summer James Pullen (kit man) asked me which one I would like," he said.
"The number means so much to me and it just felt right.
"It gives me a boost because it's not just a number to me. It's not just the fact that it was Darren Bent. It's something so personal to me and my family."
"With my sister's name on my body and the number 18 on my back, I'm proud to be doing what I'm doing and knowing that I'm doing it for her.
"The day I walked out as captain (against Sheffield Wednesday), my uncle and my mum were here. I found out I would be captaining the team on the day and my uncle had to leave about an hour in because he was crying - he was so proud.
"It's a number I've always wanted to wear and now that I'm doing well in it, I feel like it's a sign and it's my time to show the world what I can do."
Speaking further about his meeting with Maddy, Bonne said: "It was lovely to meet her. I've been that kid who has love for a club and wants to tell the footballers how much I appreciate it. I've been turned down for autographs and you go home thinking why haven't they done it for you.
"When I leave the ground now, I don't care if there is one kid waiting or 35 kids waiting, I'll always stop for pictures and autographs. It's so good to have that connection with the fans and let them know that you appreciate them.
"I've played in the Championship and international football (for Zimbabwe) but I still just want to be known as a normal guy. That's the way I try and live my life.
"I don't want to live my life as a stereotypical footballer. Yes, I have nice things and a nice car - but I try to live my life like a normal guy. If we have a few days off, I'll take a walk to the local pub, find some random guy and talk absolute nonsense with him! I'm a normal person who just plays football for a living.
"When I was injured, I sat in the stand and wore my shirt because I'm a Town fan."
- - - - -
Many footballers have strange pre-match superstitious rituals, but Macauley Bonne might be the first to have one relating to sausage dogs.
"I've got a fair bit going on, including getting two more sausage dogs!" he revealed. "Some people call me crazy, but my partner and I love them. We've just adopted Teddy and George to go with Buddy and Bear. We spoil them like they're kids to be honest.
"We got the other two because they were in a right state. I saw them and thought 'my dogs have everything - they're perfectly groomed, loved and fed' and so I wanted them to have that.
"We take them to Ipswich Dog Day Care Creche a few days a week and they love it. It's like picking them up from school when I get there in the afternoon - I'll arrive at the door and one of them is sat with their head down because they have been naughty!
"I don't know if people know, but I have small sausage dogs tattooed on the back of my legs and I tap and kiss them before each game. It's part of my routine and I've scored in every game I've done it, so I can't stop!"
- - - - - -
It's easy to forget that Bonne is only on a season-long loan from Championship club QPR.
Indeed, he could even be recalled in January.
"I have to keep reminding myself that I'm a loan player because I get a bit carried away with the passion - I love Ipswich Town," he said.
"I have to do something big for the club this season. That's not just for me, but because I know people who love the club and I want to make everyone proud.
"Getting this club back to the Championship would be right up there for me. To put it politely, it'd be showing the people that doubted me that I can do it. I'm scoring goals at the moment and it's proving to everyone that knocked me over my years in football that I can do it.
"If you give me the chance to play, I will score goals, and that's a good habit to have. There's no better feeling than seeing the ball hit the back of the net and seeing all the fans celebrating.
"Just seeing the club get promoted would be amazing, but actually playing a part in that success would be incredible."
He added: "I'm feeling the love, but I also want to see the club going in the right direction. I want that winning feeling week-in, week-out. I think once we get that, everyone will realise just how big this club is.
"I'm sat doing this interview in reception at Portman Road and there are trophies, medals, pictures and caps right in front of me. When you look at the history, there is no other club in the league with that.
"Right now, I'm buzzing to be part of the challenge that is getting this club flying. Everyone knows how much I love the club and how much I want us to succeed.
"I've seen people that were here when I was released years ago. It's nice speaking to them and hearing them say 'well done' and praising my journey.
"I wish I could go back to my eight-year-old self and say this is how it would play out.
"When I got knocked back it made me hungrier to succeed. I am proud of myself."
And so you should be Macauley.