Rio Ferdinand talks of pain and helplessness after wife’s death

• Ferdinand admits he ‘didn’t have a clue’ how to make a doctor’s appointment
• Former Manchester United defender reveals struggle as single father

Rio Ferdinand has opened up on the helplessness and pain he felt after the death of his wife, Rebecca. The former Manchester United defender revealed that without his wife or a football club to lean on, he “didn’t have a clue” how to make a doctor’s appointment.

Ferdinand has also spoken of how difficult he found coping with being a single parent to his three children after he lost Rebecca to cancer in 2015. His sons, Lorenz and Tate, were then nine and six and his daughter, Tia, was four.

The former England international made his remarks to the Radio Times before the broadcast of a BBC documentary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad. The hour-long programme will be shown at 9pm a week on Tuesday.

“In football you don’t lift a finger until you go over the white line to play,” Ferdinand said. “Everything is done for you … Then at home we’d go on holiday, for instance, and all I had to do was pack my own bag because Rebecca packed.”

He needed to adapt. “It was even, like: ‘How do I go to the doctor’s?’ I’d only ever seen the club doctor. I didn’t have a clue.”

Ferdinand admits he initially felt inadequate when dealing with his children in Rebecca’s absence. “She used to fix their beds a certain way, and when they’d tell me it almost felt like a slight. I’d think: ‘Whatever I do isn’t going to be good enough.’”

The new Radio Times includes an interview with Rio Ferdinand about the BBC programme ‘Being Mum and Dad’.
The new Radio Times includes an interview with Rio Ferdinand about the BBC programme ‘Being Mum and Dad’. Photograph: Radio Times

He also began to appreciate how much Rebecca had done for the children to ensure the smooth running of the house. “I used to wake up, get dressed, have some breakfast with them, and then I’d take them, drop them off and get out and go to training, and think I was doing my bit. But that’s the easy bit … Where are their shoes? Where are their clothes? Where are their bags?”

The most difficult problem he faced was how to deal with his bereaved children and help them grieve. Ferdinand said one of his sons noticed a wall of greetings cards on their way out of the hospital.

“He said: ‘What’s that Dad?’ I said: ‘Oh, that’s some of the thank you cards patients and families have left for the doctors and the nurses on the ward, for helping their mum and dad or whoever they’ve had up there.’ He went: ‘Well, they didn’t help my mum,’ and he just walked off.”

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