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Soccer star helps fight against malaria

FOOTBALL FRIENDS: Papa Bouba Diop (right) at the launch in Birmingham with El Hadji Diouf, one of his ambassadors

INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALLER Papa Bouba Diop consummated his brilliant career by scoring the winning goal that knocked France out of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

But now the respected Senegalese footballer, whose height and large frame earned him the nickname ‘The Wardrobe’ by Fulham fans, is hoping to achieve his greatest goal so far – by helping to strike out the scourge of malaria in the African continent.

As someone who still has a strong bond with Senegal, the former Birmingham City, West Ham United and Fulham midfielder has just launched the Fight Against Malaria (FAM) Papa Bouba Foundation.

The foundation’s aim over the next five years is to work alongside the government of Senegal and other governments to reduce the impact of this preventable disease, often referred to as ‘the killer in the night’, that affects almost half the world’s population.

FAM’s other main goal is to develop an educational support project for children who have been orphaned by malaria. There are also plans to partner schools in Senegal with schools in Birmingham.

This treatable disease causes more than a million deaths per year, with three quarters of these deaths occurring in children under five, and pregnant women four times more likely to fall victim.

For Diop, 36, who was born and raised in Rufisque, Dakar, the shadow of malaria has followed him all his life.
He told The Voice: “I have grown up seeing people I know die from this disease, so it’s made a huge impact on me.


“And now when I return to Senegal I see people who are still dying, most of them children and pregnant women. There are so many organisations on the ground fighting malaria but the disease still exists – this is why I want to get involved and make a difference, by showing the Senegal people the best way to fight malaria.”

Since malaria is spread through an infected mosquito bite which happens mainly during the night, one of FAM’s plans is to provide Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) for everyone, plus spraying homes with insecticide repellent spray.

There are also plans to raise malaria campaigns in local communities, improve swamp clearing and local hygiene, while promoting indoor spraying.

Diop’s campaign is being supported by an impressive team of nine ambassadors from the beautiful game who are giving their support free of charge. They include: Demba Ba from Chelsea; Youssouf Mulumbu, from West Bromwich United; Jack Butland, from Stoke City; El Hadji Diouf, of Leeds United; Zat Knight, from Bolton FC; Asante Akwasi, from Birmingham City; Abdoulaye Faye, of Hull City; Guy Demel of West Ham United; and Morgaro Gomis, of Dundee United.

Several ambassadors were at FAM’s official launch in Birmingham at Marco Pierre White’s restaurant in The Cube, which will also be the venue for a grand fundraising event on Saturday, April 26.

The theme of the event will be about uniting to help fight poverty, disease and provide education for the people of Africa.
Pat Wright, a Birmingham-based cultural development coordinator, who has helped to launch the FAM Foundation, said: “We feel very honoured that Papa chose to launch his foundation here in Birmingham, a place where he has always felt welcome and at home.

“We have come through a generation of people who thought that the only person they had to look after was themselves. We all have a responsibility to look after others and that’s the way it should be.

Wright continued: “I hope many people will join us on this journey to make a difference to these people’s lives.

“Working together, we have a common understanding that is best described by this African saying – ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, take others with you.’”

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