Former Marseille President Pape Diouf died at 68 after contracting the new coronavirus, a family source told us on Tuesday.
Diouf, born in Chad but with French and Senegalese citizenship, led the club between 2005 and 2009 and helped form the team that won the Ligue 1 title in 2010.
He was hospitalized in Senegal after contracting the virus in the country and became the country’s first COVID-19 fatality.
Diouf was due to leave for Nice early Tuesday to be treated in France, but a severe deterioration in his health – which saw him put on a respirator – prevented him from boarding the plane.
Diouf was also a journalist and football agent before taking over the Stade Velodrome.
Moving to Marseille at the age of 18, he began a military career, but soon changed direction.
After studying at the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris, he worked for the newspaper La Marseillaise before becoming a football agent, mainly for Didier Drogba, who delighted the Velodrome in 2003-04.
He later became president in Marseille, “a difficult position, 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.”
Diouf himself was aware of the lack of diversity at the managerial level, telling an interviewer in 2008 that the fact that he was the only black president of a top European club was “a painful observation”.
“Pape will remain in the heart of Marseille forever, as one of the greatest architects in the club’s history,” Marseille said in a statement.
Senegalese President Macky Sall also paid tribute to “a great sport figure” on Twitter.
“To his family, on behalf of the nation, I offer my deepest condolences.”