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Interview: Pape Diouf, ex-president of Marseilles FC

Pape Diouf

The TRUE Africa 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today and tomorrow. We’re featuring them over 100 days and we’ve asked them all three questions.

The journalist-turned-agent-turned-manager, the Senegalese Pape Diouf, who was born in Chad, is best known for being the first black president of a top-tier European football club. He was president of Marseille from 2005 to 2009 … And his dad originally wanted him to go into the army.

But his ambitions didn’t end there; in March 2014 he stood as an independent candidate for the mayoral election in Marseille. He now teaches ethics at the journalism school in Marseille that he co-founded in 2010 with TV personality Jean-Pierre Foucault. That’s diversifying at its finest.

You recently attended the opening ceremony of the All Africa Games in Brazzaville. What did you think?

The fact that such an event exists is great news, although it is a shame that no big star athlete was there to represent their country.

The All Africa Games showed that African sport exists outside of football, but it would have more of an impact if it led to qualifying for an international competition. This would encourage the more famous African athletes to come and compete. The opening ceremony didn’t show how thrilled the public was: it was really a political event.

Africans are not the type to attend events instadiums. So the question is: today, how will a sports complex like the stadium built for the 11th African Games in Kintele be used?

Africans are not the type to attend events at stadiums. So the question is today how will a sports complex like the stadium built for the 11th African Games in Kintele be used? That’s the problem with sport in Africa. We saw it in South Africa after the 2010 World Cup: who uses the infrastructures and who takes care of them after the event?

What is your vision of African football and what should be the priority for its development?

African football lacks infrastructure: even the countries that have a team competing at the international level do not have the stadiums to show for it.

African football has grown more mature and we are seeing most African star players sign contracts in European championships. But at the local level, there is no audience; there is no great football player; there is no means to create the show.

That paradox is the priority.

Who is your African of the year?

Sportsmen and women are in the spotlight but I believe that there are many more Africans doing their own thing and not getting enough credit for it: in research, literature and science.

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