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Senegal World Cup hero Papa Bouba Diop dies aged 42

Papa Bouba Diop
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The former midfielder, nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’ during his career, has passed away at the age of 42 after a long illness.

Former Senegal and Premier League star Papa Bouba Diop has died at 42 years of age following a long illness. Reports over his passing emerged on Sunday night, leading to a host of tributes from the football world.

The exact illness that the 42-year-old was suffering from remains unknown. There have been reports claiming it to be Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, which is a degenerative nerve disease linked with genetic mutation. But nothing has been confirmed at this stage.

Diop first rose to prominence by scoring the decisive goal in Senegal’s shock 1-0 win over reigning champions France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup.

He later scored a brace against Uruguay to help The Lions of Teranga reach the quarter-finals and finished as the team’s top-scorer. A €9m transfer from Lens to Fulham followed two years later, where he first made his mark in the Premier League.

The Dakar-native became an instant hit at Craven Cottage, impressing with his physical attributes and ball abilities. His performances in the middle of the park were so impressive it gave birth to the nickname ‘The Wardrobe’.

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes once labeled him as one of his trickiest opponents ever.

“Do you remember Papa Bouba Diop?” Scholes told Robbie Savage as quoted on MEN.

“Big, massive. They used to call him The Wardrobe! You get involved physically with him and you’re wasting your time.

“I always found him awkward to play against. He wasn’t a Vieira, of course, he wasn’t, but he still had talent.

After three years in London, Diop joined Portsmouth and helped Harry Redknapp’s side win the FA Cup in his first season. He ultimately made 129 appearances in the English top-flight before heading to AEK Athens in 2010.

Brief spells with West Ham United and Birmingham City followed before Dip retired from the game in 2013.

Below are some tributes that have been made for Diop.