Papa Bouba Diop

Monday 12 June 2006 01:43

Surely no one else in the sporting world can boast a nickname derived from a large piece of bedroom furniture. Papa Bouba Diop - Fulham's 'Wardrobe' - has, however, earned his moniker with good reason over the past two seasons.

A giant midfield enforcer with a daunting on-pitch presence, agility that defies his size and a shot that can reach Mach Three. Bouba's contribution to Fulham's establishment as a Premiership force has been undeniable and, furthermore, the mild-mannered Senegalese pledged his future to the Whites last season, signing a new contract that will keep him at Craven Cottage until 2009.

By his own high standards, however, 2005/06 was a disappointing campaign for Bouba. There were no repeats of the spectacular goals that humbled the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in 2004/05 and a frustrating injury sidelined him for a large chunk of the campaign. At international level as well there was disappointment as Senegal exited the African Cup of Nations in the Semi Final and failed to make it to the World Cup Finals.

Nevertheless, the 28-year-old is determined to make a big impact on the new Premiership season and knows that he made the right decision in signing an extension to his contract here.

"I am happy to have signed" he says with a broad grin as he chats about the season, with a little assistance from the Club's translator. "I feel great here and consider the Club as my second home because I love London, I feel great at Fulham and am enjoying the company of players and staff at the club. I also have a great relationship with the fans which is essential.

"I have a great feeling about next season too. I felt that I had a good season in my first year here but unfortunately, due to injury, I don't think I have been as effective this time. I won't give up though and it's up to me to come back and be ready for the start of the new campaign and to show our fans that I intend to have a big season for Fulham."

Elaborating further on the rigours of the past nine months, however, and with the World Cup now underway, Bouba's thoughts are understandably centred on his country's failure to join the likes of Ghana and the Ivory Coast in Germany this summer. Far from being bitter though Bouba hopes that those African nations present can surprise a few people this summer.

"It's bad for the country and it hurts the Senegalese public that we didn't qualify for the World Cup" he says, looking serious for a moment. "We were let down by results in the early stages of the qualifying campaign and should have started a lot stronger. Senegal were the surprise package of the tournament four years ago and I think that another African nation participating this time could do the same.

"Of course I am disappointed not to be there but it's is not the end of the world, other great African sides also haven't made it such as Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa. Now we must put this disappointment to one side and concentrate on qualifying for the 2010 tournament in Africa. This will be a great occasion for all African nations."

For now though the Wardrobe plans to get some rest and watch as much of the World Cup as he can before pre-season gets underway in July. "I will be visiting my family and friends in Senegal" he says. "I intend to meet up with some of my childhood friends - we always have great fun together and they are very close to me and I would never want to forget them."