Rangers hero and Dutch ‘warrior’ Fernando Ricksen dies, aged 43

September 19 – Former Rangers and Netherlands player Fernando Ricksen has passed away at the age of 43 following a brutal six-year battle with motor neurons disease ALS. 

The Dutch international, who had been battling the condition since 2013, was a fans’ favourite during his six-year spell at Rangers after being signed by Dick Advocaat in 2000. In Glasgow, he won the domestic cup double in 2002, and the treble in 2003. He also captained Rangers to a trophy double in 2005.

Rangers said  they were “deeply saddened,” announcing the news of Ricksen’s passing. “The thoughts of everyone at Rangers is today with his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family and friends.”

Following his diagnosis, Ricksen raised money to find a cure for the debilitating condition. ALS affects the nerves and causes weakness over time. His charity raised over £1 million in a bid to help scientists with research. In January 2015, a charity match was played at Ibrox with 41,000 fans attending, raising £320,000, with the proceeds split between Ricksen, 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,” said Rangers coach Steven Gerrard. “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 epitomised 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.”

In an ITV interview in June, Ricksen urged sports to do more to combat ALS.  “The sports world could put more pressure on the pharmaceutical companies,” said Ricksen. “This disease is not lucrative enough so it has no priority. If tomorrow an MND epidemic came we would have a cure within a week. It’s disgusting but a reality.”

Former teammates paid tribute to Ricksen. Peter Lovenkrands expressed his sorrow 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!” wrote Lovenkrands on Instagram. “A true warrior and leader on the pitch! You’ll be truly missed. RIP my friend.”

Ricksen left Rangers for Russian side Zenit St Petersburg where he was reunited with Advocaat. He was part of the Zenit squad that reached the 2008 UEFA Cup final against Rangers, though he did not feature as the Russian side won 2-0.

He won 12 caps for the Netherlands between 2000 and 2003.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1571641326labto1571641326ofdlr1571641326owedi1571641326sni@o1571641326fni1571641326