Fernando Ricksen: 'I want to be the first person to beat motor neurone disease,' says emotional former Rangers defender after tribute match

The Dutchman, 38, was carried onto the Ibrox pitch in front of 41,000 fans on Sunday

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The Independent Football

Former Rangers and Netherlands defender Fernando Ricksen told thousands of fans at Ibrox stadium that he wanted to “be the first person” to beat motor neurone disease.

The 38-year-old, who played more than 300 games for Rangers in a six-year spell at the club from 2000 to 2006, said he is desperate to beat the disease for his daughter, Isabella.

“One person should be the first to defeat this terrible disease,” he told the Ibrox crowd at a tribute match to raise funds. “Well, let that person be me. "I want to see my daughter growing up. That's what I'm going to fight for.”

Ricksen revealed he was diagnosed with the degenerative disease on Dutch TV in 2013. The game was delayed half an hour as more fans poured into the ground, while Ricksen was given a guard of honour and carried around the stadium.

The match was expected to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds, including a £10,000 donation from Old Firm rivals Celtic.

Ricksen later released a statement on the Rangers website.

“When I look back at my football career, and indeed my life, I feel fortunate to have so many great memories and highlights and that includes getting the opportunity to play for my beloved Rangers,” he said.

Every time I walk through the main doors at Ibrox Stadium it fills me with pride and joy and that will be the same ahead of today’s tribute match with so many fans and former team-mates of mine wanting to show their support, not only for me and my family but also for MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.

“Since 30 October 2013, when I announced on television that I had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, the number of people who have contacted me and offered help has been overwhelming and I can’t thank everyone enough.

“At the age of 36 you don’t expect something like this to happen to you and having been a very fit and active person I always thought I would have a better chance than most of staying healthy as I got older. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works.

“MND strikes indiscriminately and that’s why raising awareness of the disease is so important. At present there is no cure and due to the stage I’m at now I’ll not be able to take to the pitch today which is deeply frustrating.

“Nevertheless I expect the players involved to put on a great show and I would like to thank every one of them for showing a desire to play and, in many instances, for travelling a long way just to be here at Ibrox.”