Kirsty Howard White Builder

David Beckham pays emotional tribute to brave Kirsty Howard after she dies aged 20

David Beckham has paid an emotional tribute to Kirsty Howard.

The former England skipper mentioned the "special moments" he had with her and that she would be sorely missed.

Posting to Instagram said: "Words cannot describe how amazing this young lady has been over the years

"Kirsty has been defying doctors for many years and whilst doing that she has been raising millions of pounds for terminally ill children.

"I met Kirsty in 2002 when she became the nations and my good luck charm for the game against Greece, we also met the queen together in Manchester so you could say we have spent some amazing moments together over the years and it was an inspiration to meet such a brave young lady with so much drive for helping others.

"My love and thoughts go to Kirsty's parents and sisters as this inspirational young lady will be missed.

"My heart and love goes to Kirsty for letting me be a small part of your world of the years.

"Rest in peace."

Beckham, who has famously supported Kirsty ever since he first helped her onto the pitch at Old Trafford in 2001 for a World Cup qualifier with Greece,

As a young child, Kirsty had become almost inseparable with her icon as the two were seen at various awards and charity drives.

The first time they met was in October 2001 when as a six-year-old she accompanied the England team onto the pitch for their vital World Cup qualifier with Greece at Old Trafford.

Barely tall enough to reach Beckham's waist and carrying a 20kg oxygen tank from which tubes were connected to her nose, little Kirsty bowled over the hardened footballers with her staggering bravery.

Dad Steve said at the time: "He was fantastic with her - he kept talking to her, stroking her head, making sure she was OK with all the noise and crowds."

Beckham said: "It was very special to lead the team out with Kirsty. I had been told she would be there and I hope it was as special for her as it was for me.

"She is an inspiration for myself and the rest of the England team. We did it for her. You have to look at her and realize how lucky you are."

As she strode out with the team, commentator John Motson said: "You are looking at the bravest person of the afternoon ... not the England captain, David Beckham, but Kirsty."

And it was this bravery that Beckham later credited with giving him the determination to score a winner in the dying minutes of the game.

Amid the euphoria of scoring the equalizer in the 2-2 draw with Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup, the skipper made sure to contact Kirsty - who he credited as "my inspiration".

After the game, an elated Beckham said: "We did it for her. You only have to look at her and realize how lucky you are. She is a little sweetheart."

In the weeks and months after the match, Kirsty sent a letter to her favorite player while he was in Japan with the national team.

At the time, she wrote: "Dear David, I wish I could be your mascot again so I can see you score a winning goal when you play the next game. Lots of love, Kirsty."

After being handed the letter, Becks said: "This is fantastic. Kirsty's the most amazing little girl in the world. Kirsty is always in my heart.

While many would think the star would eventually drift away from the youngster, Beckham was true to his word and continued to see and support her.

After their first meeting, Becks had promised to Kirsty that the next time they met he would bring his wife Victoria - and he was true to his word.

Having started raising money for charity, Kirsty launched the Angel Ball - a fundraiser for Manchester's Francis house Hospice for children.

And just a short while after their first meeting, David surprised the youngster by attending the ball with Victoria on his arm.

Kirsty said at the time: "When they walked in everyone clapped and we had our photos taken.

"Then he kissed me again - that was so brilliant."

And the attention and support Kirsty was receiving from one of the most famous couples on earth clearly stunned the child's parents.

Dad Steve said: "It's amazing how much they genuinely care for her. You can see it in their faces whenever they meet her."

And it was not just David who was smitten with Kirsty. In interviews at the time, Victoria would frequently speak of her love and admiration for the little fighter.

She said: "She is amazing. When you think about all the pain she has gone through, she's still a happy little girl, always a smile on her face and she truly appreciates life."

Victoria was also happy to share her man with Kirsty, joking: "There aren't many young ladies who I'd let hold hands with my husband. But she loves him and he thinks she is fantastic."

The former Spice Girl even told how watching Kirsty and seeing her strength helped her with her own children.

She said: "I'm constantly worrying about Brooklyn but it's not until you see Kirsty that you realize how hard it must be."

In 2002 she once again met her hero, when she helped Beckham launch the Commonwealth games in Manchester.

With a beaming smile, she passed the torch used to open the ceremony onto the Queen.

And it was in the same year, 2002, that Victoria met Kirsty again as she handed over a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Award to her.

Over the years, the Beckhams continued to support Kirsty and her charity drives.

David Beckham is in America at the moment but is expected to make a comment.