Rio Ferdinand tragedy transcends football’s tribal values today

Rio Ferdinand and Rebecca Ellison
Rio Ferdinand and Rebecca Ellison

Football means nothing today.

Normally, for many of us, we regard it as one of the more magical ingredients of life.

Tragedy strikes for the ex England man

Tragedy strikes for the ex England man

It was a fundamental part of our upbringing, an abiding passion that nursed us through our adolescence and kept us young, at heart and mind, as we grew older.

We love our own players, and yes, hate their’s.

It’s a passionate tribalism that is sometimes hard to explain to those not bitten by the bug.

But today the football community is in mourning after a catastrophic event that transcends anything that happens this weekend on a pitch.

Former England star Rio Ferdinand’s wife Rebecca has died following a battle with cancer.

“My soulmate slipped away last night,” the QPR defender said in a statement.

“Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

“She was a fantastic, loving mother to our three beautiful children. She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.”

The former Manchester United centre-back and England captain, who won 81 caps for his country, could find words of gratitude to the staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

“Myself, my parents Janice and Julian, along with Rebecca’s parents Lesley and Stephen, would like to thank our families, friends and my club colleagues who have rallied around in these desperate days, weeks and months,” the statement continued.

“I would also like to express my gratitude for the dedication and expertise of the staff led by Professors Johnstone and Clarke at the Royal Marsden. Their valiant efforts to prolong Rebecca’s all-too-short life will not be forgotten.

“Our grief, as a family, is total. We would appreciate being allowed to mourn privately.”

Today, football should put aside its singular loyalties.

And Bill Shankly’s oft-used quote: “Someone said to me ‘To you football is a matter of life or death!’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’ has a hollow ring to it, indeed.