Former Senegal, Fulham and Portsmouth midfielder Papa Bouba Diop had died on 29 November in France at the age of 42, after a long sickness. According to media reports he had Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease and ALS.
The 1.95 m tall (nicknamed “The Wardrobe” for his imposing stature) was a strong, aggressive, but good-hearted player, loved by both club members and opponents. His playing style and ability drew made many football pundits compare him to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, who was equally born in Dakar, Senegal.
Diop started his football career in 1996 with ASC Diaraf of the Senegal Premier League. He left ASC Diaraf for Vevey a third-tier club in Switzerland, where he spent a few months before signing in 2000 as a professional for Neuchâtel Xamax a Swiss Ligue Nationale A club. Diop later joined Grasshoppers Club a top Swiss football club, which he helped win their championship title in his first half-season. Playing with Grasshoppers offered him an opportunity to play in UEFA competitions, which exposed his talents and potentials as a great player. Soon the French football giant Lens of Ligue 1 came knocking on Diop’s door. He signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with Lens in 2002.
The same year, Papa Bouba Diop made a remarkable impact on the pitch by not only playing in the 2002 FIFA World Cup; he scored the winning goal in the tournament’s opening game as Senegal defeated France, the reigning World champions by 1-0. That defeat led to France early elimination from the tournament, where Senegal eventually reached the quarter-finals. He ended the tournament as his team’s best scorer with three goals, scoring twice against Uruguay.
Diop became a household name on the pitch, with different clubs showing interest in him. He played for Fulham, Portsmouth, AEK Athens, West Ham United and Birmingham City. He made 129 appearances in the Premier League.
Papa Bouba Diop played 63 times for Senegal scoring 11 goals.
Tributes have been pouring in, following Papa Bouba Diop’s death.
“He was a big, gentle giant, always happy. I’m so sad to hear about it” Harry Redknapp, Papa Bouba Diop’s former coach remembers him.
“Great feet, scores goals, defends well, tackles, has got good pace….. his stature and ability were unique in the Premier League at the time, similar to that of Patrick Vieira.” His manager at Fulham, Chris Coleman narrates.
“It is with a wounded heart that we’ve heard of your passing. Know that you will remain forever in our hearts even though you left without saying goodbye. RIP,” Liverpool and Senegal star Sadio Mane laments.
May his humble soul rest in peace.