As we learn of the disappearance of Pape Diouf Tuesday March 31, 2020, we republish the portrait that painted Release on the last page, in 2002.
In football as elsewhere, money has no smell, but the agent sometimes has honor. This is Pope Diouf’s message. Pope is a players’ agent, a profession assimilated, at best, to a legal racketeering of clubs, at worst, to a machine for laundering dirty money from the community. Big Black in this micmac, Pope wants to be “neither a conscience nor a reference”. But he claims to keep a few principles. Neither double agent nor troubled money: on the calf exchange, Pope is not a loan shark. “In France, the profession is seen from the angle of money, money, money. Business bursts, the agents are questioned. It’s easier to beat them than it is against leaders, coaches or players. But there is the same proportion of indecent people in this profession as in others. I’m not sure that all the mechanics, TV repairers or journalists are OK. ”
Pope, twelve years in the profession, has fifty footballers under his thumb, Marcel Desailly, Laurent Robert or William Gallas, whose course, whims, anxieties and heartache he manages. The job is to heat the laptop by ear, “Not a day without 5, 6, 7 calls from players”, which he concludes with a “OK son, kiss your family!”
Football is a jungle, Pope juggles it, “Sixteen hours a day”, never on vacation, planes up to four times a day. A crazy life. Fortunately, it is well paid. “The word” agent “is used for the words” business “,” bizness “,” money “. When I wake up at 4 in the morning, I have a problem to solve, I don’t say to myself: “Am I going to make a deal at 200,000 or 300,000?” Even if, at some point in the chain, the question will arise. ”
There is a Diouf style, which the Pope explains: “I’m not trying to please one or the other. I don’t tell stories to players. I give them the elements of reflection, of appreciation. When Desailly wanted to go from Nantes to Monaco, I insisted that he come rather to Marseille [en 1992]. It only expresses its potential when there is pressure. In Monaco, even if the financial interests were more important, he had the risk of being civilized. In Marseille, there was excitement. ” Winning coup for Desailly, 1993 European champion with Olympique de Marseille (OM).
So, is the agent happy? His reputation is that the Pope builds careers. Don’t just knock and win cash. He likes success before money, even if one brings the other. With his players, he never conceives a relationship “Viable and livable” that if there is “Need joint work”. Clear, “That if one leaves the other, there is a spleen”. Until recently, Pope worked without a contract with his players. What’s the point, “Since the important thing is what is said between us”. Today, international regulations oblige to contract. The more so as there is the risk, for the agent, a species in the process of multiplication, of being bitten by a player. “But if he leaves with another, it is because he no longer wants to be with me. I’m not going to take a gun … “
How the hell did the Pope the Senegalese fall into this? Having grown up in Dakar, he was sent to Marseilles at the age of 18 by his father, a bailiff at the French embassy. “Gaullist from the start, he wanted me to join the French army.” It gets stuck. “I said no and played system D. Searched for a way. I had nothing. “ Pope does odd jobs. Enrolls in Sciences-Po. Without further action. Pass a PTT competition. There met an inspector who collaborates with the Marseillaise, a communist daily. He returned as a freelance journalist. Basketball, then football. OM, ten years of its life. A reference. “Original writing, free, he didn’t get bored with conventions. The real news about OM was him “, testifies a former colleague. “Rigorous, meticulous, attentive, moral”says another. And regular fights with Tapie. “One day, reports Pope, I said to him:” You are fascinating because you can make people believe that two and two make five, but I do not admire you. “” Then he joined the daily Sport, brief attempt to compete with the team. “The strongest experience. Were it not for the disappearance of the newspaper a year later, I would still be a journalist. ”
When Sport stops, “Bamboo shot”. What to do ? African players who became friends Basile Boli, Joseph-Antoine Bell asked him to “Take charge of their business”. “African footballers were exploited copiously. It had to be stopped ”, explains a journalist. Pope : “Existential question: was I going to leave journalism to enter an environment that did not have a good press?” He thinks for a year. Then starts. Solemnly. “The principles of journalists can apply to other professions: the refusal of compromise, of lying. The meaning of the word. The courage to follow through on his ideas. ” Pope creates a small stable on “Ethnic connivance” Afro-Caribbean. “Then others came. Competence has no color or ethnicity. ”
He started a company, a small structure in Marseille with five people. Money circulates in football, it takes its share. Ball game, cash game, “Since i started, i’m told” how far will it go? ” But if this money is in the middle, it is normal that it is the main players in the game who touch it. ” Pope does not forget Senegal. He dreams of creating a football school there with OM “Who would not only take into account the sports report” but would provide alternative training (agriculture, animal husbandry, accounting management, IT …). He launched a fleeting weekly there, the Athletic, a failure. “Not to be concerned with Senegal is to deny a part of myself. Integration in France is a badly posed problem. No matter how well I integrate, marry all the local tics, there will always be people for whom I will be the black man landed from Africa. However, I am from Marseille, I speak like them, I support OM … Same for my children. They grow up with their white buddies, and then, at 18, go on a trip, and realize that their passport is looked at twice, and not the friend’s passport. ”
Pope, to relax, reads Maurice Duverger, of political science, he is a serious boy. To stay relaxed, he avoids talking about OM and its setbacks. Pope is 50 years old, four children, none is a footballer. He knows success, but his story, all things considered, is it a fairy tale? “In this profession of agent, you put your hands in shit,” explains a relative. Then there is a law of silence which links all the actors. Family secrets. They all crossed unclear stories, which they accepted. At one point, you can no longer play the moralist. ” Pope always wonders, thinks of hanging up, says nothing about it. He will not write his journey: “Either we write everything, or we write nothing.” Pity.
POPE DIOUF IN 6 DATES
1951 Birth in Abéché (Chad). His parents join Dakar.
1969 Land in Marseille.
1975 Becomes freelance at “la Marseillaise”.
1977 Start writing about OM.
1987 Leaves “la Marseillaise” for “l’Hebdo à Marseille”, then “le
1990 Become a player agent.