Rio’s tearful tribute to late wife and praise for ‘beautiful’ Kate at BAFTAs
There were emotional scenes at the TV BAFTAs last night, with Rio Ferdinand fighting back tears as he paid a choked-up tribute to his late wife and girlfriend Kate Wright.
The former Manchester United footballer touched hearts across the nation with his BBC documentary Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, which followed the sports star as he navigated life as a single parent of three following wife Rebecca Ellison’s death from breast cancer in 2015. She was just 34.
And collecting the Single Documentary Award, an overwhelmed Rio joked that despite being ‘used to picking up trophies’, this one was his most emotional yet.
"Thanks to BAFTA and all the other nominees, but also to BBC for believing in the project, all the guys at New Era, the management team, it’s been quite a crazy whirlwind experience," he told the audience at The Royal Festival Hall in London on Sunday.
"I didn’t do this for any other reason other than my three kids. The worst thing to come out of this is that I get quite emotional now. I’m not quite used to it," he continued, admitting the show had "allowed him to speak and show vulnerability."
"You’re built up as quite an indestructible athlete. All of the nans, the grandads, the younger people, the middle-aged people who come up to me now in the street don’t want to talk about football. So that means that we’ve done a good job," said the father of Tia, seven, Tate nine, and Lorenz, 11.
He then looked out towards former TOWIE star Kate – who quit the reality series to help Rio look after the children last year – and explained the documentary gave him and his kids more than they had ever hoped for.
"This documentary has propelled me forward into a period of happiness where my kids are happy I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend. Thank you, BBC, thank you very much," he said.
The ceremony marked Kate and Rio’s first public appearance as a couple, 16 months after they first met at a barbecue in Dubai in January 2017.
Announcing her decision to quit the show last year, Kate explained, “I’m taking a step back from the public eye, I want to keep my life private as I lived my previous relationship on Towie, my priority right now is Rio and the family."
And while Kate has admitted that winning the children’s trust hadn’t been without its challenges, Rio recently confirmed they all adore her.
"My relationship with Kate has helped in that they have got a female in the house now," he told The Times.
"They run past me sometimes to go to her. I’ve had to go through a period of being very, very open, and men aren’t normally like that naturally.
"So having that extra person in the house who is female, who has that softer touch, I think is vitally important for the kids."
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