Death of Pape Diouf, atypical character of football


The good news about the pandemic ravaging France is that it can break down some stupid partisan barriers. The whole of football in France therefore shares the sadness of the Marseillais, struck in succession by two mournings that greatly exceed the limits of the Vélodrome. Michel Hidalgo, father of the nation and Marseille from the heart barely buried, Tuesday, March 31, in his tracksuit in the colors of OM, here we were in the evening when we learned of the death in Dakar of Pape Diouf, taken away at 68 years by the Covid-19.

→ PORTRAIT. Michel Hidalgo, the death of a defender of the “beautiful game”

The entire Marseille city is ” shocked “, according to the formula barring in black the front page of the newspaper Provence, owned by Bernard Tapie, another strong player in Marseille football, which Pape Diouf was one of the few to oppose on the football field like that of words. Because before being an influential man in sport, Pape Diouf was a man of letters, first employed in posts, then graduated at Sciences-Po Aix-en-Provence and finally pillar of the sport section in the communist newspaper The Marseillaise.

For years, this son of a former member of France Libre has scrapped lengthy tasty articles with Bernard Tapie, blaming the businessman parachuted for his stranglehold on Marseille from below, which he himself knew better than anyone. He left the press in 1988 and took the leap towards the profession of player agent, above all to defend the interests of young Africans who landed in mainland France. Those who were then the easy prey of these intermediaries who began to impose themselves in football in the 1990s.

Main architect of the club’s rise

This conversion is linked to his friendship with Joseph-Antoine Bell, who recounts their meeting on the RFI site, where the former Cameroonian OM goalkeeper acts as a consultant: “We have known each other since The Marseillaise. When he went at Sport, I went to see him after the nap every afternoon. And I took care of all the social cases of African players And everyone called me at Pope’s house, there weren’t any laptops at the time. I told him that he could be an agent for these players and do it in a different way because this profession was not well regarded. “

A little later, in 2004, Pape Diouf changed his jersey again to don the one Robert-Louis Dreyfus, the boss of Adidas and the OM, had proposed to him. He will not brandish any title in front of the particularly versatile Stade Vélodrome audience, who will never hold it against him. In fact, he was the main architect of the club’s rise to the top places in the championship. A supporter of sound and reasonable management, he narrowly missed the title of champion of France in 2009, finally won by Bordeaux. But he had put OM back on track for success by hiring Didier Deschamps as coach, just before being disembarked by the entourage of Robert-Louis Dreyfus, a few weeks before the latter’s death in 2009.

First black president: “a sympathetic anomaly”, according to him

The title of champion and the Coupe de la Ligue 2010, he will savor in the stands (where he wanted to pay his place) without ever indulging in any bitterness. Too busy already with his new challenge: to found a school of journalism in Marseille, La Mediaschool Marseille, which gave a large place to the children of immigrants. The school published on twitter a formula that the boss willingly addressed to students: “When I look at you, I read in your eyes your will to succeed. “

The first black president of a large professional sports company in France, Pape Diouf, rarely addressed this aspect. Proud of his journey, he liked to define himself as “A sympathetic anomaly”. “It is a painful observation, like European and above all, French society, which excludes ethnic minorities”, he also judged in an interview with Young Africa published in 2008.

Since his departure from OM in 2009, the Franco-Senegalese, to whom he willingly added a third nationality, from Marseille, occupied his time between consulting missions for federations and conferences on management which are very popular in companies. He also did not hesitate to play discreet advisers to journalists, in the background on football subjects, sometimes very superficial. His cell phone never rang for absent subscribers. He didn’t take himself seriously, but his advice always was. Testimony of the author of these lines: his answers to questions generally raised other questions, which is very rare.


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