London - Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand says he has been "overwhelmed" by the support he has received following the death of his wife, Rebecca Ellison.
Ellison died aged 34 earlier this month following a battle with breast cancer, prompting an outpouring of support from within the football community.
"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," Ferdinand wrote in Sunday's edition of British tabloid The Sun.
"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."
Ferdinand, 36, said he had been touched by messages of support from fans at his former clubs Manchester United and West Ham United, as well as Liverpool.
"The day it was announced that Rebecca had died, we were overwhelmed by messages of support," said the former England captain, who played for Manchester United between 2002 and 2014.
"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. It was refreshing to see such compassion in the game, with tribalism removed."
Ferdinand and Ellison married in the Caribbean in August 2009 and she gave birth to three children: Lorenz, nine, Tate, six, and four-year-old Tia.
Ferdinand said that he had felt "guilty" about not being able to play a part in Queens Park Rangers' ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
He explained that only a small number of family and friends had known about Ellison's illness and that players at the club were initially unaware why he was not playing.