Papa Bouba Diop – Senegal legend and former Portsmouth and Fulham midfielder – has died at the age of 42.
Diop secured his place in his country’s history by scoring the winner against reigning champions France in their first ever World Cup game in 2002. Senegal went on to reach the quarter-finals.
FIFA confirmed the death of the midfielder, saying: “FIFA is saddened to learn of the passing of Senegal legend Papa Bouba Diop. Once a World Cup hero, always a World Cup hero.”
Senegal president Macky Sall paid tribute on Twitter, saying: “The death of Pape Bouba Diop is a great loss for Senegal.
“I pay tribute to a good footballer, respected by all for his courtesy and his talent, proudly reminding us of the Lions saga in 2002. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and to the football world.”
Current Senegal international and Liverpool star Sadio Mane wrote on Instagram: “Pape Bouba, it was with a broken heart that we learned of your (death). Know that you will forever remain in our hearts even if you left without saying goodbye to us.”
Diop enjoyed a lengthy career in England – where he was affectionately known as the ‘Wardrobe’ due to his stature – after joining Fulham from French club Lens in 2004.
The London club tweeted: “We are devastated to hear news reports this evening that Papa Bouba Diop has passed away, aged 42. Rest well, Wardrobe.”
Such sad news, one of the friendliest, lovely people I’ve ever had the pleasure to play football alongside
Papa Bouba Diop
28 January 1978 – 29 November 2020
A true gentleman, RIP my friend 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/k5s61g7R21
— David James (@jamosfoundation) November 29, 2020
Diop joined Portsmouth from Fulham and was part of their 2008 FA Cup-winning side. Their manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, told Sky Sports News that he was an “absolutely fantastic character”.
He added: “(I) never heard a bad word for anybody out of his mouth. Everyone just loved him.
“I looked like signing him at Portsmouth and then I lost him, he ended up going to Fulham.
“I went to watch him at Fulham a few times and he was such a good player, strong and powerful and could pass it, and he played in that Senegal team that beat France at the World Cup.
“Then eventually I got him to Portsmouth and he was so influential in what we achieved. He was a top player and a top person, always smiling, always laughing. He was just lovely to have around and I’m really upset to hear this news. He really was a special character.”
Diop went on to play for West Ham after leaving Porstmouth – via a brief spell in Greece with AEK Athens – and the club said: “Everyone at West Ham United is saddened to learn of the passing of Papa Bouba Diop at just 42.
“A part of our 2011/12 promotion-winning squad, he’ll always be a part of our club. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. Rest in peace, Papa.”