24/05/2015 13:59 BST

Rio Ferdinand 'Overwhelmed' By Support After Wife Rebecca Ellison Died

Rio Ferdinand has described being "overwhelmed" by the support he received from football fans after his wife Rebecca Ellison died.

The former England captain said her battle with cancer was "the most difficult period" for his family and paid tribute to her as "an incredibly brave woman".

A host of football's star names, including Sir Alex Ferguson and former Manchester United team-mate Nemanja Vidic, turned out for the 34-year-old Ms Ellison's funeral, he added.

rio ferdinand rebecca

Rio Ferdinand with Rebecca Ellison in 2006

Writing in the Sun, he said: "It has been the most difficult period of my life, what with managing the emotions of our three children and watching such a great woman as my wife Rebecca die without being able to do anything about it.

"After Rebecca died, we held a service on a lovely sunny day which was arranged to perfection. Rebecca was an organisational freak and planned much of it herself while the kids picked the music. She wanted it to be celebration of her life rather than a morbid occasion and it went just the way she would have liked."

He thanked the world of football for its good wishes, including fans at his former clubs West Ham and Manchester United as well as Liverpool.

"The day it was announced the Rebecca had died, we were overwhelmed by message of support ... The kids saw it all and were telling me, 'Look Dad, have you seen what they are doing for Mum?' Those are good memories for them," he said.

"It was refreshing to see such compassion in the game, with tribalism removed."

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The couple married in August 2009 in the Caribbean on Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The footballer rented the entire 1,800-acre resort for their nuptials.

They have three children Lorenz, nine, Tate, six, and four-year-old Tia. According to reports, Ms Ellison died after a battle with breast cancer.

Ferdinand, 36, also said he felt "guilty" about not being able to play a full part in QPR's season, during which they were relegated from the Premier League.

His wife's battle was only known within an intimate circle of family and friends and other players at the club were unaware why he was unavailable for selection, the player said.

Photo gallery Rio Ferdinand England career See Gallery