This obituary is part of a series on people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Mababa "Pape,quot; Diouf, who became the only black president of a top-tier European football club when he was appointed to head France's Marseille Olympique, died Tuesday. in Dakar, Senegal. He was 68 years old.
The cause was Covid-19, the club said in a statement. Diouf was scheduled to fly to France for urgent treatment before his health deteriorated, forcing him to be placed on a respirator, according to press reports.
Diouf was born on December 18, 1951 in Chad, the son of Demba and Aminata Diouf, and had French and Senegalese citizenship. He moved to France at age 18 with the expectation of completing his university studies, but that plan quickly gave way to a stint in journalism.
After the daily sports shutdown he worked for, he went to work as a sports agent. He used the contacts he had established during his time as a journalist, which coincided with a period of glory for Marseille, to sign up as clients of some of France's best-known Afro-descendant players. They included stars like Basile Boli and Marcel Desailly.
"He is not a friend, he was an older brother to me," Boli said. "All my children, my father and my mother knew him, they loved him."
Diouf was hired in 2004 as general manager of Marseille, a notoriously difficult club to manage, with a passionate fan base and a turbulent modern history.
In one year, the owner, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, promoted him to club president. During her time at the helm, from 2005 to 2009, Marseille nearly won a title, twice finishing second in the league and twice losing in the French Cup final. But many attribute Mr. Diouf's recruiting decisions for ending an 18-year wait for the championship.
The season came after he was fired.
Despite the results of his administration, Diouf proved to be popular with fans of the club, among the biggest and perhaps most vociferous in French football. He had a habit of defending the club against criticism, and used his speaking skills to defend his club's interests in the media and motivate the roster.
His popularity "was immense with the people of Marseille whose hearts he had won," France's national team manager Didier Deschamps, a former Marseille captain, told the French sports daily L’Equipe.
Diouf was widely respected in the world of soccer. Senegal's President Macky Sall described him as "a great sports figure,quot;, and French football boss Noël Le Graët called him "an important man in our football, a quality man, atypical, listened to and respected. "
Despite Diouf's advance in the largely white world of European football management, he told an interviewer in 2008 that being the only black club leader in Europe's major leagues was "a painful observation."