Former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen has vowed to “battle all the way” after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).
The 37-year-old Dutchman, who played almost 200 times for the Glasgow team between 2000 and 2006, announced his illness on a TV show in his homeland on Wednesday.
The disease, also known as amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), causes muscles to weaken and waste away, leading to crippling paralysis.
Around 5,000 people in the UK suffer from MND, which affects the ability to swallow and breathe.
It is widely reported that in an interview on Nederland 3 programme The World Keeps Turning, Ricksen said: “I find it difficult to talk because I’ve got ALS.”
The retired footballer was on the show to talk about the publication of his autobiography.
Ricksen said: “I have feared for a couple of months I was in trouble – it is very hard to take.
“Inside me there is a fighting spirit, there always has been. I will fight this – I know it will be difficult but I will battle all the way.”
The exact cause of the disease has not been established by doctors and there is no cure or standard treatment.
Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone died from MND in 2006, aged 61.
Last night, Rangers fans took to social media to show support for the former player.
Fans’ group the Rangers Supporters Trust posted on Twitter: “Dreadful news on Fernando Ricksen tonight. Our thoughts with him at this terrible time.”