Two nights ago, I was reading a short story by Roberto Bolaño from the collection “Des whores murderers”. The short story is called “Buba” and tells the story of an African footballer who succeeds in becoming a goal machine at Barça (or in a club which resembles Barça) thanks to magic rituals, which allow him to score at sure and get scored. The story, as always with Bolaño, is a mixture of humor and deep melancholy. Throughout my reading, of course, I haven’t read Buba with an “u”, but Buba with an “or”. And throughout this reading, the only Bouba soccer player I could think of, even if he had nothing to do with Barça or with black magic (although, that strange round of joy around his shirt displayed near the corner post on May 31 …), it was Pape Bouba Diop.
I wondered, after reading it, what he was doing, where he was living, what had become of …
I learned a few hours ago, with sadness and longing, like many of us, that he had passed away at 42, and that he was ill.
All Senegalese will remember his stature as a Homeric colossus, his helmet shots, his goals at the 2002 World Cup, his dances, his silver chain that jumps on his chest as he celebrates, his hug with his friend Henri Camara after one of his achievements against Uruguay.
The player will be remembered for his physical presence, his temperament, his offensive projections, his determination despite any technique, his sense of duty and sacrifice, qualities that he shared, for the most part, with his two middle friends (Diao, Cissé …).
And of the man … what will we remember about the man? I do not know. We didn’t really know the man – me, at least I didn’t know him. No doubt I will remember that he was discreet, although his legend and his exploits of 2002 had allowed him to be heard more. For the rest, we will have to go to Rufisque, question those who knew him.
Here is another of our figures that leaves, leaving the memory of pure emotions. No doubt this is already a lot; undoubtedly that is already all, for an athlete: to leave similar emotions. And yet, more than ever, there is a need to know, beyond what they have done, what these people are or have attempted to be. A man’s soul never fully knows itself; but she’s approaching. Too late, in a way, for that of Pape Bouba Diop. But there are other great souls to know.
Friends are trying to make people better known who have made and still do – cultural, political, sporting, social – of Senegal. Elgas keeps his Inventory of Idols, essential. Pope Sene, Fary Ndao, with others, question our “Legacies”. Fundamental. There are probably other initiatives that I am not familiar with. They must be multiplied, whatever their medium. Write, question, film, listen, collect, give voice.
I would have liked to hear Pape Bouba Diop’s voice again. It can be seen as echoing in the memories he left behind. God knows he made some big ones in my mind in 2002.
It was in that year that “Murderous Whores” was published. In the short story I was reading, an innocuous phrase from Bolaño made me smile: “Buba, in the midst of the confusion, put his leg up and scored.” I smiled. I still smile at the heart of my sadness this evening, and I say to myself, thinking of his goal against France: Bouba, in the midst of the confusion, put on his leg and scored.
And that’s why he will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Lion.