Fernando Ricksen has been battling Motor Neurone Disease since 2013
Fernando Ricksen found a special way to celebrate his daughter Isabella’s seventh birthday on Tuesday despite being bedridden in hospice care.
In a video shared on Instagram, the 42-year-old former Dutch soccer star — who is in the final stages of Motor Neurone Disease — had his room at St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie, Scotland, decked out in party gear for Isabella, with “Happy Birthday” banners, balloons, presents, and even a unicorn cake scattered about.
All was a surprise to Isabella, who could be seen running into the room with glee as her dad watched on. Ricksen’s wife Veronika filmed the sweet moment, setting the clip to Ed Sheeran’s “I Don’t Care” before posting it to her page.
“Best daddy ever, best surprise for our little girl,” Veronika wrote in the post’s caption, along with several heart and prayer emoji. “Thank you so much for making her happy.”
Motor Neurone Disease — or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — is a crippling, fatal disease in which nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord stop working, preventing basic motor functions like speaking, walking, swallowing, and breathing.
Ricksen was diagnosed with the disease in 2013, the same year he retired from the sport. He was given a year to 18 months to live at the time, The Herald reported.
Prior to getting sick, Ricksen had played soccer professionally for 19 years as a midfielder and defender and is most known for his six-year stint with the Rangers, which began in 2000. Back in the 2004-05 season, Ricksen scored nine goals from midfield, pushing the team to a League and League Cup double. That season, he named the SPFA player of the year (a prize he shared at the time with Celtic striker John Hartson).
Years later, in May 2008, Ricksen played for Zenit and helped beat the Rangers to win the UEFA Cup.
Earlier this month, Ricksen announced he would be holding an event on June 28, at which he will make his final appearance.
“Hello, I’m having a special night on the 28th,” Ricksen said in a video posted to social media, through a computer-generated voice. “Since it’s getting very difficult for me, this will be my final night. Come and make this a night to remember. Hopefully see you soon, Fernando.”
An Evening with Fernando Ricksen, as the event is being called, will be held at the GoGlasgow Urban Hotel. Tickets are £70 a person.
Back in 2013, Ricksen told Dutch television that he wouldn’t be backing down to his health condition.
“Inside me there is a fighting spirit, there always has been,” Ricksen said, according to Eurosport.com. “I will fight this. I know it will be difficult but I will battle all the way.”
Since then, he had raised money to help others with Motor Neurone Disease. In June 2016, Ricksen launched the Fernando Ricksen Foundation, which has raised funds to help with the cause.