27 Marzo 2017 16:40
Two years ago, the life of Rio Ferdinand changed forever. His wife, Rebecca Ellison, died from breast cancer just weeks after being diagnosed.
The former Manchester United player became a widower at the age of 36, with three young children to bring up alone. Overwhelmed by the situation, he left Queens Park Rangers and retired from football one month after losing his wife.
The player has opened up about his grief and problems with alcohol in an emotional BBC documentary entitled Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, which airs on BBC1 on Tuesday March 28.
'Nobody is prepared to suffer a loss like this. Before she went, Rebecca told me I'd be a perfect mummy and daddy to the children. I never thought it would happen,' he said in an interview with the Radio Times.
Ferdinand says that before his wife died he had very little involvement in the day-to-day care of his children. 'I had no idea how much my wife did in the home. As a footballer, you don't lift a finger until you go over the white line to play. Everything is done for you. When you sit down, your kit's in your locker. When you finish getting changed, you throw your kit on the floor. Someone comes in and picks all that up. Your boots, they're muddy, someone comes in and gets them, cleans them. When you get to the airport you don't even look at a sign, you just follow feet.'
He hadn't appreciated how many domestic chores Rebecca had taken care of before she died. 'When we'd go on a holiday, for instance, all I had to do was pack my own bag because Rebecca packed. 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,' recalls Ferdinand.
'Now I understand how important she was as their mother. Us men are ignorant. Women look after the family and the home and we see that as not being a job. It's a fucking hard job.'
The sudden loss of his wife initially drove Ferdinand to alcohol, as he drowned his sorrows in nightly binges. 'At first I drank a lot at night after putting the kids to bed. Until one day I woke up and I wasn't able to take them to school. I even had a car accident. And I understood that I couldn't carry on like this. I was having panic attacks. I needed help,' he says.
Finally, Ferdinand admits that at first he felt unqualified to look after the kids without Rebecca. He felt that whatever he did, it wouldn't be good enough for them. But now his attitude has changed.
He knows he can never replace their mum, but life must go on, and he's determined to do his best to bring up his children in a way that would make Rebecca proud.