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Former footballer Fernando Ricksen dies after battle with motor neurone disease

Former footballer Fernando Ricksen has died, following a battle with motor neurone disease.

The Dutchman, who played for Scottish side Rangers, was 43 years old. He leaves behind a wife and a daughter.

He was diagnosed with the motor neurone disease in 2013, just a few months after he retired from professional football following a six-year deterioration in his condition.

When he was initially given the terminal diagnosis, which he announced in October 2013 on Dutch TV, he was given just nine months to live.

But he was determined to fight on, using computer technology to complete interviews until just months before he passed away.

His death was announced by his former club, which wrote on its website: "Rangers is deeply saddened to announce that former player Fernando Ricksen passed away this morning following his battle with motor neurone disease," the Scottish club said on their official website.

"Fernando spent six trophy-laden seasons at Ibrox having initially joined a number of other Dutch players under manager Dick Advocaat in the summer of 2000."

Rangers added: "The thoughts of everyone at Rangers is today with his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family and friends."

The club's managing director, Stewart Robertson, added: "Fernando will never be forgotten by his teammates or Rangers fans. His place in our history is secured."

Rangers Manager, Steven Gerrard, said: "Very sad news for everyone, more importantly for his young family. On behalf of the club, I would like to pay tribute to Fernando. A fantastic player who played with his heart on his sleeve."

Touching family photos from his birthday celebration in July, which he joined from his hospice bed, show the former player surrounded by loving family and friends.

His wife, Veronika, wrote on one Instagram post of the closeness between father and daughter: "They are best friends, there is something special in common between them, they always have same jokes and lots of fun together, and they both never listen to me. But I love them so much. Never give up."

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In one of his final interviews, he showed ITV News how he used his eyes to type sentences into a computer.

His message was: "I told you before I'm going to beat this, how impossible it may seem."

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

Tributes as player remembered as friend and a 'true fighter'

Messages of support for Ricksen's family have poured in, from fellow players and clubs alive. Stiliyan Petrov, who played for Celtic, said he is a "true fighter on and off the pitch," adding his "thoughts are with" the player's family.

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Hearts of Midlothian, another Scottish football club, tweeted an image of Ricksen engaged in a match against the team

It passed on its condolences to his family and friends.

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Ricksen, who won 12 caps for Holland, was signed by Rangers from AZ Alkmaar for £3.75 million in 2000. During his time at the club, he scooped seven major honours and Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year award.

He raised awareness and funds to help other sufferers of motor neurone disease through the Fernando Ricksen Foundation.

A benefit match for the Dutchman, held at Ibrox in January 2015, saw more than 41,000 fans attend Ibrox and raised £320,000, with the proceeds split between Fernando, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation