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 Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Roddy Forsyth

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

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