Fernando Ricksen: Ex-Rangers captain dies at age of 43 after battle with motor neurone disease
Last Updated: 19/09/19 3:59pm
Former Rangers defender Fernando Ricksen has died at the age of 43 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.
The Dutchman, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in October 2013, passed away in a hospice on Wednesday morning.
Rangers released a statement following his death. It read: "Rangers is deeply saddened to announce that former player Fernando Ricksen passed away this morning following his battle with motor neurone disease.
"Fernando spent six trophy-laden seasons at Ibrox having initially joined a number of other Dutch players under manager Dick Advocaat in the summer of 2000."
Ricksen, a midfielder who could also play at right-back, won two Scottish titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in a six-year spell at Ibrox after joining Rangers in 2000.
He moved to Zenit St Petersburg in 2006, initially on loan, where he won a Russian title and the UEFA Cup, beating Rangers in the final in 2008. Ricksen returned to Holland to finish his career with Fortuna.
A benefit match for the Dutchman, held at Ibrox in January 2015, saw over 41,000 fans attend Ibrox and raised £320,000 with the proceeds split between Fernando, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.
Rangers added: "The thoughts of everyone at Rangers is today with his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family and friends."
'A warrior on and off the field'
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard delivered his own tribute to the club's former midfielder as he held a press conference ahead of Thursday's Europa League game against Feyenoord, promising to dedicate a victory to Ricksen and his family.
Gerrard, who played against Ricksen in an international friendly between England and the Netherlands in 2002, revealed his admiration for the Dutchman's passionate style of play.
"He was a fantastic player," Gerrard said. "He had a decorated career. I think he played with his heart on his sleeve - he was that type.
"I think that was epitomised when he was taken ill in 2013. I think he was given 18 months to live at the time and he's fought ever so hard up until this point, so I think that sums up the character - a warrior type on the pitch and off the pitch.
"He certainly deserves all the accolades that are going to come his way because I think he handled himself, not just as a footballer, but as a human being more importantly.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of emotions in the stadium tomorrow and I think Fernando deserves that… and we ask the supporters to get right behind the team because I think it will be a nice tribute to him if we can put in a good performance and try and get maximum points."
'Great honour to manage Ricksen'
Alex McLeish, who managed Ricksen during his time as Rangers manager from 2001-06, told Sky Sports News it was "a great honour" to have worked with him.
He said: "Fernando was well liked. He was a powerful, modern-day full-back who could play in midfield as well.
"He was a fantastic player. He had an edge to him that saw him see red a couple of times but, by and large, he was a wonderfully consistent player for Rangers.
"He was an absolutely superb footballer and the fact that he won so many trophies with Rangers, he made a real name for himself.
"It was a great honour to have worked with Fernando and I'm glad he was part of my team."
Peter Lovenkrands, who also joined Rangers in 2000 and spent six years with the Scottish club, paid tribute to his former team-mate on social media.
The 39-year-old posted on Instagram: "You looked after me when we signed at Rangers together, taking me back and forward to training because I didn't have a car, great memories on and off the pitch!
"A true warrior and leader on the pitch! You'll be truly missed. RIP my friend."
Zenit St Petersburg - the team Ricksen left Rangers to join, initially on loan, in 2006 - also released a statement.
It read: "We're deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our former player Fernando Ricksen. He battled bravely against motor neurone disease right until the end and we are all thinking of him and his family at this difficult time."
Fortuna, currently second bottom in Eredivisie, paid tribute to their former player on Twitter.
"Today we received the sad news that Fernando Ricksen died at the age of 43," the club said. "We wish all surviving relatives strength in this difficult time. Warrior, rest in peace!"
Celtic: Fernando showed immense bravery
Celtic also sent their condolences to Ricksen's family following the news. A club statement read: "Everyone at Celtic Park was saddened by the news that former Rangers player, Fernando Ricksen has sadly passed away."
Chief executive Peter Lawwell added: "Fernando was part of Scottish football for a number of years and for him to be taken so young is a huge tragedy.
"He fought this terrible condition with such courage and we should all admire and respect the inspirational way in which he tackled the challenge which he faced.
"He showed immense bravery throughout. Our thoughts and prayers of course are with Fernando's family and friends at such a difficult time."
Ricksen remembered in Sky Sports documentary
An emotional documentary of Fernando Ricksen's battle with motor neurone disease has been re-released by Sky Sports following the former Rangers captain's death.
'Fernando Ricksen', filmed in 2015, charts the late Dutchman's lengthy battle with the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis that took his life at the age of 43.
The documentary followed Ricksen around the time of a benefit match held by Rangers at Ibrox in January 2015, where over 41,000 fans helped raise £320,000 for the Dutchman, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.
The documentary 'Fernando Ricksen' is available to download now On Demand.