Fernando Ricksen, former Rangers player, dies at age 43
Former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen has passed away at the age of 43 following a battle with motor neurone disease.
Ricksen, who won 12 caps for the Dutch national team, had been battling the disease for six years after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in October 2013.
The former defender spent six years at the Glasgow club, where he won the domestic cup double in 2002 and the treble in 2003.
Following his diagnosis, Ricksen raised money to find a cure for the disease, and a benefit match was held in January 2015. It attracted more than 41,000 fans to Ibrox, raising £320,000 ($399,000) with the proceeds split between Fernando, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.
“It’s very sad news for everyone connected with Rangers and, more importantly, his young family,” Rangers coach Steven Gerrard told a news conference Wednesday.
“So on behalf of the club I would like to pay tribute. He was fantastic player and he had a decorated career.
“He played with his heart on his sleeve, he was that type, and that was epitomized when he was taken ill in 2013. I think he was given 18 months to live at the time and he has fought ever so hard up to this point.
“That sums up the character, the warrior type on the pitch and off the pitch. But we certainly send our condolences to his young family.”
Ricksen joined Rangers in 2000 when then manager Dick Advocaat signed him from AZ Alkmaar. He went onto become a fan favorite due to his combative style of play.
Peter Lovenkrands, who joined Rangers at the same time as Ricksen and also spent six years with the Scottish club, paid tribute to his former team-mate on social media.
“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!” Lovenkrands said on Instagram.
“A true warrior and leader on the pitch! You’ll be truly missed. RIP my friend.”
Ricksen eventually left Rangers and joined Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg where he was reunited with Advocaat.
Coincidentally, Ricksen was part of the Zenit team that beat Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup final, although he was an unused substitute for the final.
The Russian side also paid tribute to its former player on Twitter.
“We’re deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our former player Fernando Ricksen,” it said. “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.”