The More Mature Diouf
After a tumultuous few years, El-Hadji Diouf’s international career is now back on track and he has set his sights on the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa. That would mark a return to the stage where Diouf shot to prominence in 2002, when, after scoring eight times in five qualifying games to secure the Africa Cup of Nations finalists a place in the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time, he played in all five Senegal games in the Far East before a quarter-final defeat by Turkey. The dust had hardly settled before things started going awry and Diouf soon threatened to quit international football when Bruno Metsu resigned as the coach of theTeranga Lions.
A couple of years later he was kicked out of the Senegal team ahead of a World Cup qualifier in Liberia after being spotted among nightclub revellers. “He’s a professional and should know the team rules, which demand rigour, discipline and punctuality,” said Senegal’s French coach Guy Stephan.
Diouf was banned by the Senegalese FA for his nocturnal indiscretions and then copped another four-game ban following his side’s ill-tempered quarter-final defeat by Tunisia at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations when Diouf had a running feud with referee Ali Bujsaim. In October 2007, Senegal’s captain announced he would no longer play international football after becoming fed up with organisational problems but he quickly returned to the fold to spearhead his country’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign. Then, during their bid to win the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in Ghana, the skipper failed to lead by example and was again caught in a Kumasi nightclub with midfielder Ousmane Ndoye and goalkeeper Tony Sylva. Their conduct prompted manager Henri Kasperczak to resign almost immediately and new manager Lamine Ndiaye dropped the trio as Senegal crashed out of the competition.
Now, a more mature Diouf is back on the straight and narrow and is spearheading his country’s FIFA World Cup™ campaign. “Internationally, things are going well,” he told FIFA magazine. “We are playing in the World Cup qualifying, we are top of the table and I am the top scorer. There were problems in the past, but they were a long time ago. It’s different now, though, and hopefully we will be at the next World Cup finals. I’m very happy for myself that I’ve scored a few goals and I like to bring my experience to help the team.”