Fernando Ricksen’s widow tells how Rangers hero shielded her from illness

Fernando Ricksen’s widow has told how the Rangers hero bravely pleaded with her to stay away so that she didn’t suffer watching the final days of his illness.

The former Dutch defender, 43, died following a long battle with motor neurone disease on Wednesday.

Veronika Ricksen has revealed how Fernando told her not to see him at St Andrew’s Hospice, in Airdrie, during the final stages of his six-year battle with the illness.

The Dutchman wanted her to stay at home in Spain with their daughter Isabella.

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She said she agreed but would always regret not being there for him.

She told the Daily Record: “It was the last thing I wanted. He was the love of my life. I wanted to be with him until the end.

“I’d cared for him until we couldn’t cope on our own any more.

“I’ll punish myself for this decision for the rest of my life. But I respected his choice. It’s very painful.

“I knew him too well. If he really didn’t want me to see him in the last few days then I had to respect that.

“He knew it would be too emotional for me, as well as Isabella. She is too young to cope with seeing her Pappy die.

“I’d ask him every second ‘Can I come to you?’ But he would always say no.”

Ricksen was only given 18 months when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2013 but his fighting spirit saw him survive for several years more.

He also set up a foundation and raised more than £1million to fund research. Ricksen moved to the Airdrie hospice after being too unwell to fly back to Spain after a Rangers tribute event last year.

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Veronika praised his personal nurse.

She said: “His nurse has been a real strength to our family. She’s been with him more or less constantly for the last year.

“I’d texted her before taking Isabella to school and she said he was fine.

“She said he was calm and sleeping and everything was fine.

“I got home and was just doing some chores around the house when I got a call saying he’d passed away. He’d gone.

“It had been coming but nothing can prepare you for hearing that. I can’t really remember the rest of the day.”

Veronika flew to Glasgow immediately to help organise the funeral. She saw the thousands of tributes left outside Ibrox with flowers and scarves piled up.

Veronika is staying with Ricksen’s friend Stan Gordon above the Rangers themed pub he runs in Blantyre, Lanarkshire.

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Rangers are covering the cost of funeral with the family struggling financially and a reported legal fight with his ex-wife Graciela over owed money.

Veronika said: ”The reaction has been very emotional, especially from Rangers fans and the club.

“Fernando would have been very proud to see how fans have reacted.

“He was a professional footballer and had played for a few clubs.

“I met him when he was playing for Zenit. He was loved there too and he had clubs in his homeland.

“But Rangers had a special place for him. I don’t think it’s by chance he died so close to Rangers’ stadium.

“It will always be remembered as his club.”

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