Former Senegalese midfielder Papa Bouba Diop, who scored the winner to defeat France in the opening game of the 2002 tournament, passed away at 42 years old. Sources reported by ESPN that the former Fulham and Portsmouth star was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease.
Diop won 65 selections for Senegal between 2001 and 2008 and played a vital role in the team that reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup — one of only three African teams to reach the eight finals of the competition — in 2002
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The midfielder’s close-range goal against reigning world champions set debuts Senegal on their way to one of the most famous victories in the tournament’s history, and he would go on to score twice as they held Uruguay 3-3 in their final group game to reach the knockout stages. The Teranga Lions were eventually defeated by Turkey on the golden goal rule in the quarterfinals.
Diop also represented Senegal in four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments and was part of the camp that reached the final in 2002, where he was defeated by Cameroon in Bamako. At the club level, he represented four English clubs following his Premier League debut with Fulham in 2004 and was part of the Portsmouth team that defeated Cardiff City in the 2008 FA Cup final.
Diop was introduced as a replacement in the 78th minute — replacing Pedro Mendes — in a match set by a first-half goal from the great Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu. Earlier in his career, he was a Swiss champion with Grasshoppers, having transitioned to Swiss football and third-level Vevey after being recognized by the Scouts while playing with ASC Diaraf in his home country.
He also played for Neuchâtel Xamax and spent time with Lens — where he was a League 1 finalist in 2002 — before moving on to English soccer. After leaving Pompey for AEK Athens in 2010, he won the Greek Cup, then returned to England to assist West Ham United in getting a promotion in the Premier League, before finishing his career in Birmingham City.
Originally from Rufisque, Diop, who stood at 6 feet 5 feet, was nicknamed “The Wardrobe” because of his impressive presence in the midfielder and was named by Manchester United legend Paul Scholes as his hardest opponent earlier this year.
“FIFA is saddened by the death of legendary Papa Bouba Diop in Senegal. Once a World Cup hero, still a World Cup hero,” the global governing body said in a Twitter statement.