by PamelaRFC | Guest Contributor
This interview with former Rangers captain Fernando Ricksen took at the beginning of October before his announcement that he has ALS, in the UK better known as MND. In consultation with Fernando and his biographer Vincent, it was decided to publish it now.
Was Advocaat the best coach you ever worked with?
Yes, he was like a father figure to me. It started at the national youth team, where he took care of me. He has been there for me in good times and bad times. Our relation grew in Glasgow and later on in Zenit. I am very grateful to him about that.
All those mad things I have done in the past, I think many coaches would have fired me. Dick didn’t. He kept his faith in me. I’m happy he’s doing so well at AZ Alkmaar now.
Did you regret not getting the chance to play with your brother Pedro at Alkmaar?
It would have been great to play together with Pedro, but he wasn’t good enough. That’s why I advised him not to sign the contract with Partick Thistle. He could have played there, but I told him don’t do it. If you aren’t good enough for AZ, then you are definitely not good enough for the Scottish Premier League against clubs like Glasgow Rangers. I didn’t do it to bother him, but I did it to protect my brother.
Fernando, what was your favourite game you played in, with Rangers and with another club?
My favourite game with Rangers was the match against Hibs, at Easter Road, when we became champions on the last day. And another memorable match was with Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Cup Final against Glasgow Rangers. Not only because we won, but I met my acquaintances like Nacho Novo, McGregor and Jimmy Bell, the kit-man to whom I gave my shirt.
How did you recover from being taken off so early in your first Old Firm game and being sent off in your second one?
I kept faith in myself. The chat sessions with Gert-Jan Goudswaard, the dutch doctor of Glasgow Rangers also helped me a lot.
How did you cope with being subbed at Parkhead after only 20 minutes?
It was almost the most terrible match of my career. Bobby Petta was making me crazy.
After a few minutes I already saw that Dick was letting my Turkish colleague warm up. I kept the faith, Dick didn’t. He subbed me very soon. I never cursed that loud!
What was the Easter Road game like when we won the league in 2005?
Like I said, it was the most amazing game for me at Rangers, also because I was the captain.
No one, except us, were expecting that we became SPL champions. Even the association (SFA) hadn’t counted on that. They even didn’t put a replica of the cup in Ibrox. Only at the last moment the cup was flewn in with a helicopter from from Fir Park. We all know this as Helicopter Sunday.
How did you feel being the first person in Scotland to be found guilty of a kick at an opponent by TV evidence?
Oh well, one guy had to be the first one. And I was that first one.
(Note: these words are the same words Fernando told a dutch tv presenter, when he was asked about his disease , at the book presentation on 31 October. He wants to be the first one who wins against ALS.)
|Photo by Stefan Schipper|
Who was the best player you played with at Rangers?
Oh, that is a difficult question. I have played with so many good players.
But really good, those were Novo, Caniggia, Moore and Ferguson, and of course the Dutch men Ronald de Boer and Arthur Numan.
What is your favorite ground you ever played at?
That can only be one: Ibrox. Fantastic. Those stained glass windows! Where do you see that?
Only in a church, but not in a stadium. It is wonderful. Outside Ibrox, I like Hampden Park. Great how close the supporters are at the pitch.
Outside Scotland, I love San Siro in Milan. When I was a little kid, I always went there during our summer holidays in Italy. Who could ever think that, many years later, I would play with Rangers a Champions League match in San Siro?
How would you describe Rangers' overseas fans?
They are incredible. I have been at a supporters club in New York. It was like I was in Scotland. So many fans, and all dressed up in blue and white. Fantastic.
Has John McClelland has forgiven you for throwing him in the pool and ruining his expensive watch?
Laughing Yes of course. He wasn’t angry at me. I think he was laughing a little bit about it himself. It was like a hazing for him. He definitely belonged to the group.
What exactly happened on the plane to South Africa? The story is that you were drunk and poured a glass of water over a stewardess, and you were watching porn?
I tell everything about that in my book...
What do you think of the Scottish press?
I find them very very nasty. I will never forgive them for not letting me live my life in my own privacy.
Of course, I have done things which couldn’t stay unnoticed, but in the end, I never could go anywhere without being harassed by the press. They even hid in front of my house.
Sometimes there was a fight in the city, and according to the press I was involved. The truth is, I was in my own house at that moment. They followed me everywhere, even in the supermarket. All the rubbish they have written about me – when I bought a bottle of wine for a birthday present, they wrote that I was an alcoholic.
Do you know how many red cards you received during your career as professional footballer?
I have no idea how many red cards I got.
What was the worst one?
That is difficult to say. Of course the red cards in my first two Old Firm games were not very smart. But really regrettable was my red card against Romania, in 1998, with Jong Oranje, the Dutch national youth team. It was against Greece. UEFA just made new guidelines that day for the referees. An offence from behind was now a direct red card. It was my bad luck. I got a red card, after two minutes in.
Do you still have contact with ex-Rangers players, and if yes, with who?
No. But I liked it when I visited Glasgow in June and I met a lot of people from Murray Park. It was as if I hadn’t been away.
Do you miss Scotland?
Yes, in a certain way, I do miss it. The people there are unforgettable. So friendly and helpful. But I am glad I’m relieved of the weather and the press.
My football hero is Paul Gascoigne – do you have a football hero?
No. I never had. Even not as a child. My brother Pedro had his whole room full with posters; I had nothing on my wall. I even never asked for signatures at footballers.
Maybe you can call it arrogant, but I told my mother, "In a few years, it will be me who’s giving signatures." I kept my word.
Related to this question, you know about Gazza and his drinking problems. How is it with your drinking problems?
I have it under control now. I still do drink, but never more then one or two beers a week. I know that it’s much for a former alcoholic, but hey, come on, I am not perfect. The difference with earlier on is that I really stop after one or two beers. I don’t need more. I know how deep I can feel, and I don’t want that anymore.
Did the clinique work?
Yes, I became less selfish.
Final question, Fernando, and thanks for letting me interview you. What can we Rangers fans expect of your biography?
A big massive FIREWORK!
In the meantime, I have read Fernando’s biography “Vechtlust” and yes, it is a firework. An English translation will be coming soon. For information about his book and to keep up with Fernando keep an eye on his website.
Special word of thanks to Fernando's biographer Vincent de Vries, and to Fernando Ricksen himself for taking the time for the interview.
I want to wish Fernando, Veronika and Isabella all the strength, power and love.