Rangers pay tribute to ‘warrior’ Ricksen
Former captain dies after six-year fight with MND Minute’s silence to be held at Feyenoord game
The minute’s silence which will precede Rangers’ Europa League group stage opener against Feyenoord at Ibrox tonight can – despite good intentions – be categorised as a wholly inappropriate tribute to Fernando Ricksen, the former club captain, who has died aged 43 after a six-year struggle with motor neurone disease.
Life was rarely silent when Ricksen was around, certainly not in his playing days and categorically not during his spell with Rangers between 2000 and 2006.
This was the man, after all, who was taken off after 21 minutes of his first appearance at Celtic Park because of his culpability in what ended as a 6-2 defeat, was sent off before half-time on his second appearance there and who was the first player in Scotland to be banned on the basis of video evidence, when the TV cameras caught him aim a reverse karate kick at Aberdeen’s Darren Young.
He won 12 caps with Holland before being banned after smashing a door on a night out. He tested positively for cocaine when he played with Zenit St Petersburg, where he twice got into fights with the club captain.
Despite a rap sheet that would have earned respect from the Peaky Blinders, Ricksen’s struggles with personal demons and ultimately with the devastating effects of motor neurone disease earned him heartfelt tributes from both sides of the Old Firm divide yesterday.
He had forsworn alcohol when he captained Rangers to the 200405 Scottish league title and was an influential figure when Zenit won the Russian championship in 2007.
The onset of MND in 2013 was the transformational factor. Ricksen had been given 18 months to live but treated the prognosis with characteristic defiance. Despite his painful deterioration, he appeared regularly at charitable events and raised close to £1million for MND research and support funds.
He was a regular visitor to the Rangers training ground at Auchenhowie, where his appearance affected Steven Gerrard. “He was still putting up a fight,” the manager said. “It’s sad news but he deserves all the tributes that are coming his way. He was a warrior on the pitch as well as off it.”
Fate and the fixture calendar have decreed that tonight’s opposition should be Dutch, with Feyenoord the top seeds in Group G. “We are at home for the opener, which could be important,” Gerrard said. “We have the opportunity to get off to a good, positive start by trying to take all three points.”
Fiery captain: Fernando Ricksen was at Rangers in the early 2000s
Tributes: Fans remember Rangers favourite Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox