Popular Diop became a national hero for his winner in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup, when huge underdogs Senegal stunned reigning champions France after he scored the only goal of the game after 30 minutes.

The Premier League regular with Fulham and Portsmouth had reportedly been battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an illness affecting the central nervous system.

Diop spent more than a decade in English football following his heroics at the tournament, in which he also scored twice in a 3-3 group-stage draw with Uruguay as Senegal reached the quarter-finals.

The 6ft 5in powerhouse played in Pompey’s FA Cup final win at Wembley in 2008, made 129 Premier League appearances and was a Swiss champion with Grasshoppers.

“We are devastated to hear news reports this evening that Papa Bouba Diop has passed away,” Fulham’s official Twitter account announced on Sunday. “Rest well, ‘Wardrobe.'”

Portsmouth and Lens both posted tributes to their former star, and the FIFA World Cup’s account said that Diop was “always a World Cup hero.”

A statement from West Ham recalled his part in their promotion to the Premier League in 2012, adding: “He’ll always be a part of our club. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Broadcaster and former England striker Gary Lineker called Diop’s death “terribly sad”, and English pundit and ex-manager Chris Kamara said he had been “taken too young”.

“We used to have a good chuckle together about me calling him ‘The Man Mountain Himself’,” reminisced Kamara. “RIP, Papa.”

Diop made a total of 63 appearances for Senegal between 2001 and 2008, scoring 11 times.

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