'Don't give up': Terminally ill ex-Rangers player Fernando Ricksen speaks about debilitating Motor Neurone Disease

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Former Rangers footballer Fernando Ricksen has urged footballers and scientists alike to do more in the fight against Motor Neurone Disease - the illness which has left him terminally ill and unable to speak.

The 42-year-old Dutchman was diagnosed with the crippling disease in 2013, just a few months after he retired from professional football.

His condition has been deteriorating over a six-year period, where he is now spending his final days trying to raise awareness about the disease.

Ricksen, using his eyes to type sentences into a computer, told ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith: "It's very difficult. Your body doesn't want to anymore but your brain is functioning without problems.

"You start losing the ability to speak. Then the legs start to get wobbly. Then you can't lift your legs anymore and you start falling."

Ricksen said the condition has left him with scars, adding: "Your brain is fully aware of everything.

"The most difficult thing was giving up my independence. Now I need to ask everyone for help."

During his prime, Ricksen won two league titles, three league cups and two Scottish cups between 2000 and 2006 while at Rangers.

His condition now has left him bed-bound in a hospice, where he knows he will spend his final few days.

Around one in 50,000 people will develop MND disease in any one year. The disease attacks the nerves, leaving a person unable to move their muscles.

He said: "I still have the same hopes I have as when I got diagnosed; to be the first person to beat MND.

"But I'm also realistic and time is ticking away."

"The sports world could put more pressure on the pharamactupical companies. 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."

An emotional Ricksen, who has donated his DNA to labs to help find a cure, issued one final plea to doctors trying to make a breakthrough against the disease.

"Don't give up."

Ricksen is attending a charity event at the GoGlasgow Urban Hotel on the 28 June to help fight MND and he says it will be his last public appearance.

Former Scottish rugby union international Doddie Weir, 48, has also been diagnosed with MND.

Since revealing the condition in 2017, his charity has raised more than £1m towards research.

And footballer Stephen Darby, who is married to England Women's captain Steph Houghton, retired from the game in September last year aged just 29 after he revealed he also has MND.