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Ex- Marseille president Pape Diouf dies of coronavirus

MARSEILLE, France, Apr 1 – Former Marseille president Pape Diouf has died aged 68 after contracting the new coronavirus, a family source told AFP on Tuesday.

Diouf, who was born in Chad but had French and Senegalese citizenship, led the club between 2005-2009 and helped build the side who lifted the Ligue 1 title in 2010.

He was hospitalised in Senegal after contracting the virus there and became the country’s first COVID-19 fatality.

Diouf had been due to leave for Nice earlier on Tuesday to be treated in France, but a sharp deterioration in his health — which saw him placed on a respirator — prevented him from boarding the plane.

Diouf was also a journalist and football agent before taking over at the Stade Velodrome.

Moving to Marseille aged 18, he was set on a career in the military, but soon switched paths.

After studying at the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris, he worked at the La Marseillaise newspaper before becoming a football agent, most notably for Didier Drogba, who enthralled the Velodrome in 2003-04.

He later became president at Marseille, “a difficult post, where there were very few men from diverse backgrounds,” said Jacques-Henri Eyraud, the club’s current president.

“But he fought tooth and nail, and won the hearts of thousands of supporters.”

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Diouf himself was acutely aware of the lack of diversity at the management level, telling an interviewer in 2008 that the fact he was the only black president of a top-tier European club was “a painful observation.”

“Pape will remain in the hearts of the Marseillais forever, as one of the great architects in the club’s history,” Marseilles said in a statement.

Senegal President Macky Sall also paid tribute to “a great figure of sport” on Twitter.

“To his family, I offer, on behalf of the nation, my deepest condolences.”

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