Papa Bouba Diop: Former Senegal, Fulham & Portsmouth midfielder dies aged 42

Former Senegal, Fulham and Portsmouth midfielder Papa Bouba Diop has died aged 42.

Diop made 129 appearances in the Premier League and also had spells in England with West Ham United and Birmingham City.

He played for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup, scoring the winner in the tournament’s opening game as his country beat France 1-0.

“Once a World Cup hero, always a World Cup hero,”

A post on Fulham’s Twitter account said the club was “devastated” and, using Diop’s nickname, added: “Rest well, Wardrobe.”

Senegal reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, with Diop going on to score twice more in the 3-3 group-stage draw with Uruguay.

He also featured at four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, including when Senegal were runners-up in 2002. He retired in 2013.

Diop helped Portsmouth, who were managed by Harry Redknapp at the time, win the FA Cup in 2008.

“He was such a wonderful character,” Redknapp told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He was fantastic for me, a great character, always happy and always had a smile on his face. He was a giant of a man.

“He had no aggression in him. He looked aggressive on the pitch because he was so big, but there was nothing nasty about him.

“My thoughts are with all his family.”

Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, called Diop’s death “a great loss for Senegal” while Liverpool’s Senegal midfielder Sadio Mane wrote on his 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.”

Papa Bouba Diop (28 January 1978 – 29 November 2020) was a Senegalese professional footballer. His preferred position was defensive midfield but he could also play as a centre back, where he previously played at Lens. Diop was considered a strong and aggressive player. His playing style and ability drew comparisons to Patrick Vieira. Diop’s second of a total of 11 international goals for Senegal came in a 1–0 defeat of then-world champions France in the opening match of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in Senegal’s first ever match at the FIFA World Cup.

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Papa Bouba Diop, a former midfielder who represented Senegal more than 60 times and played for several European football clubs, has died at the age of 42, reportedly following a long illness.

Diop scored the first goal of the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea when Senegal shocked reigning champions France by beating them 1-0 in the opening game.

Senegal football’s federation confirmed Diop’s death on Sunday.

Former French club Lens said it learned the news with “great sadness” and offered condolences to his family, while West London side Fulham, another former club, said they were “devastated” to hear of his death.

World football governing body FIFA, through its World Cup Twitter account, said it was “saddened to learn of the passing of Senegal legend Papa Bouba Diop”.

“Once a World Cup hero, always a World Cup hero.”

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In the 2002 World Cup, Diop scored two more goals in Senegal’s 3-3 draw with Uruguay in the group stage to become their top scorer at the tournament as they went on to reach the quarter-finals.

In all, the versatile defensive midfielder made 63 appearances for his country scoring 11 goals.

Diop started his club career at Senegalese side ASC Diaraf before spells in Switzerland at Vevey, Neuchatel Xamax and Grasshoppers before joining French side Lens in 2002.

A move to Fulham followed and he spent three years at the club before a transfer to Portsmouth, where he was part of the team that won the 2007-08 FA Cup.

He also had short stints at West Ham United and Birmingham City before retiring from playing seven years ago.

Diop was reported to have had Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, according to British media reports.

Fulham and Portsmouth paid tribute on Twitter to the player nicknamed “The Wardrobe”.



Former Portsmouth midfielder Chris Kamara said that he was devastated to read the news.


“Didn’t know he’d been ill … he’s been taken too young,” Kamara tweeted. “We used to have a good chuckle together about me calling him ‘The Man Mountain Himself’. RIP Papa.”

Former Portsmouth goalkeeper David James also expressed his sadness about the death of Diop, whom he described as a “true gentleman”.


“How terribly sad,” tweeted former England striker and television presenter Gary Lineker. “Taken so young. RIP Papa Bouba Diop.”