Papa Bouba Diop: a star in Senegal’s footballing destiny

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Sad moment for Senegalese, African and international football. A few days after Diego Armando Maradona left us on November 25, another star, African this one, did the same following the Charcot disease he had contracted. It is about Pape Bouba Diop, a kid from Dakar who became a gentleman, he whom the world discovered one day in May 2002 when, after his goal in the World Cup, with joy, he took off his jersey for the spread out next to the corner post before trying your hand at the Lions dance.

A goal in the World Cup in the Pantheon of the round ball

For Senegal, Pape Bouba Diop is the first Téranga Lions player to score a World Cup goal. For Africa, he is the one who allowed the Continent to offer itself a victory in the opening match of a World Cup against the reigning world champion, in this case France. All Senegalese supporters remember this moment of absolute ecstasy when on an overflow of El Hadji Diouf, Pape Bouba Diop catapulted the ball into the net of Fabien Barthez.

For a country like Senegal for which it was the first participation in a World Cup, this goal is considered an anthology goal … before others including the golden goal of Henri Camara against Sweden at the same World Cup. Korean. First, because it sealed the first victory of the Lions de la Téranga in the flagship football competition, then because it opened the door to an epic that all football fans remember, finally, because that it allowed to recover from a lot of frustrations of Senegal in international competitions around the round ball.

A goal to be placed in a historical context

A first World Cup victory therefore and not against any team: France then world champion and reigning European champion. The symbol is strong because, in the eyes of many football observers, this match was a bit like David’s shock against Goliath against the backdrop of relations between the former colonizing country and the former colony. So it’s an understatement to say that somehow a spirit of friendly revenge was not far off.

In terms of the history between the two countries but also because, contrary to what some may have thought, this match was not their first confrontation in a major competition. The first Senegal-France took place in April 1963 in Dakar during the Friendship Games. In the final of this competition, Senegal had beaten France 2 goals to 0 under the leadership of Raoul Diagne, coach and also son of Blaise Diagne, first African deputy in the French National Assembly, the same one who made , at the request of the President of the Council Georges Clémenceau, the recruitment campaign for the first Senegalese riflemen in 1916.

Standing on the left, Raoul Diagne, first black player of the French team. He will be the trainer of the Senegal team which beat France in the final at the Friendship Games in April 1963, thirty-nine years before the World Cup match on May 31, 2002. © DR

For the record, Raoul Diagne is the first black player selected for the French team, whose jersey he wore 17 times and with which he participated in the 1938 World Cup in France, a competition won by Italy: it was at the beginning of 1931. Thus, on this May 31, 2002, for the opening match of the World Cup in Korea, history and sport intersect between two countries in relation since the 17th.e century and the foundation of the city of Saint-Louis in 1659 at the mouth of the Senegal River.

A goal that opens the Korean epic …

After the game against France, Senegal drew in Daegu against Denmark before sharing points with Uruguay’s Diego Forlan and other Alvaro Recoba. During this match, Senegal led 3 goals to 0 before being raised by Celeste. After the opening of the score by Khalilou Fadiga on penalty in the 20e minute, Papa Bouba Diop went there with his double (26e and 38e minute) bringing his counter in the World Cup to three goals.

Papa Bouba Diop, with Amara Traoré and Henri Camara, after Senegal’s qualification against Sweden for the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup in Korea. © PEDRO UGARTE / AFP

For the record, Uruguay was suspended for two years after this match due to doping of some of its players. Qualified in the round of 16, Senegal came 2e of his group behind Denmark will cross the Swedish obstacle with two goals, including the first in gold of a World Cup, Henri Camara. Until the quarter-final where this time Senegal suffered the ax of the golden goal of Turkish Ilhan Mansiz, Papa Bouba Diop was tenured in each match by Bruno Metsu, the coach of the Lions of Téranga.

… and heals many of the frustrations of Senegalese football

With such a contribution to the Lions of Teranga during this Korean World Cup for which he was the Senegalese top scorer in the competition in front of Salif Diao and Henri Camara (2 goals), Khalilou Fadiga and Salif Diao (1 goal each), Papa Bouba Diop contributed with his teammates, in the wake of captain Aliou Cissé, to give joy to an entire country but also to heal many frustrations. It should indeed be known that despite all the talents it may have had in the ranks of its national teams, Senegal had never won (and still has not won) an African competition since its victory at the Games of Friendship in 1963.

However, the opportunities were not lacking. At the 1968 African Cup which took place in Asmara, now the capital of Eritrea, all observers had bet on a superb team from Senegal but it did not arrive at the beaten end out of the first round. In 1986, in Cairo, Senegal offered Egypt in the opening match before being eliminated by the particular goal average following their defeat against Côte d’Ivoire. Bis repeated in Algeria in 1990 where Senegal was knocked out in the semifinals by the host country. 1992: Senegal is this time the organizing country. After completing 2e from his group, he was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Cameroon. Ditto for the two following editions in which he participated: in 1994, it was against Zambia that he fell, and in 2000, it was against Nigeria that he left the competition. Absent in 1996 and 1998, Senegal is therefore a team for which participating in the 2002 World Cup is sure to reach the Grail.

Midfielder Papa Bouba Diop for Portsmouth. © GLYN KIRK / AFP

During all these promising years without any trophy, Senegal has nevertheless been able to count on the talent of illustrious players whose names still resonate with nostalgia in the minds of great connoisseurs of continental football: Louis Camara, Amady Thiam, Louis Gomis, Yatma Diop , Yatma Diouck, Bamba Sano, Séga Sakho, Baye Touré, Bamba Diarra, Oumar Guèye Sène, Boubacar Sarr Locotte, Ibrahima Bâ Eusebio, Roger Mendy, Jules Bocandé … So many names, so many players who have made the reputation of talented players of the Senegalese even if they hardly won any trophy before the blows of the 2000s.

Papa Bouba Diop, a journey from Senegal to Greece

Born in Dakar, Papa Bouba Diop was 21 when he arrived in Switzerland in 1999 at Vevey-Sports then Neufchâtel-Xamax before quickly joining the Grasshopper of Zurich with whom he became Swiss champion in 2001. Previously, he had had time to evolve in 1994 with the Ndeffann Saltigue, club of Rufisque, a city a few kilometers from Dakar, then in 1996 with the Diaraf of Dakar, emblematic club of the Senegalese capital.

Papa Bouba Diop in the RC Lens colors. © DENIS CHARLET / AFP

After Switzerland, head for the north of France where he will play at Racing Club de Lens from 2001 to 2004 alongside other players from the Senegalese armada of the Korean epic of 2002 such as El Hadji Diouf and Ferdinand Coly. After the North, direction England. He spent three years at Fulham (2004-2007) then Portsmouth until 2010, the Greek club AEK Athens before returning to England to West Ham United and ending his career at Birmingham City in 2012.

Papa Bouba Diop in the colors of AEK Athens. © JOHN THYS / AFP

Since the announcement of his disappearance on November 29, testimonies and tributes have rained down on all sides, spoken by political figures, athletes and anonymous. Their content says a lot about what Papa Bouba Diop could represent on the pitch, in life and symbolically for Senegalese football.

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

– Macky Sall (@Macky_Sall) November 29, 2020

Our dismay is immense to learn of the reminder to God of our fellow citizen, the footballer Pape Bouba Diop. In addition to having given us moments of pride, with the 2002 generation, he has always fascinated us by his discipline and his love of the national flag.
Rest in peace pic.twitter.com/xNao7pmjyS

– Ousmane Sonko (@SonkoOfficiel) November 29, 2020

What immense sadness to learn of the death of Papa Bouba Diop at the age of 42, he who was fighting against the disease. The Senegalese proudly wore the AEK jersey in 2010-2011.

May he rest in peace pic.twitter.com/GH6r1cPa2S

– AEK Athènes France (AEK_France) November 29, 2020

The Premier League is the best of champions.
Lookman opened the scoring for Fulham and brandished the jersey of Pape Bouba Diop.
We respect the man.
Football ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/YHWw9LZGrm

– (@ LamineNdiay11) November 30, 2020

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