London: Legendary Senegal midfielder Papa Bouba Diop has passed away at the age of 42.
Diop, who won 63 caps for Senegal, scored the goal which secured a historic 1-0 win over France in their opening FIFA World Cup match in 2002, a tournament where Senegal made it to the quarterfinals.
"FIFA is saddened to learn of the passing of Senegal legend Papa Bouba Diop. Once a World Cup hero, always a World Cup hero," FIFA confirmed the news on Sunday evening on their official Twitter handle.
"Among Diop's many accomplishments, he will always be remembered for scoring the opening goal of the 2002 World Cup. RIP, Papa Bouba Diop," a tweet from FIFA read.
Senegal president Macky Sall also paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "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," he added.
The midfielder joined Fulham from Lens two years later and excelled as a powerful defensive midfield enforcer and was affectionately known as the 'Wardrobe' due to his stature.
"We are devastated to hear news reports this evening that Papa Bouba Diop has passed away, aged 42. Rest well, Wardrobe," tweeted Fulham FC.
Current Senegal international Sadio Mane wrote on 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."
Diop went on to make 98 Premier League appearances for Fulham and scored 10 goals. He played a further 53 times in the top flight after joining Portsmouth in 2007 where he became an FA Cup winner 12 months later.
He then had a spell with AEK Athens before returning to sign for West Ham United in 2011 and enjoyed a brief stint at Birmingham City.
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