Much has been said about El Hadji Diouf’s arrival at Ibrox, with opinion very much polarised on whether he is a good signing or not. This split of opinion does not just exist across the entire Scottish football fanbase, but it also exists within the most hardcore of Rangers fans.
Looking at his footballing pedigree it is clear to see that he can contribute to Rangers quest for a third league title in a row. Some might describe Diouf as a striker and that is a role he has played, but an attacking midfielder/winger is perhaps the best description. He has won a total of 41 caps for Senegal, with an impressive 21 goals and has represented them at the 2002 World Cup. At club level he has played in the English Premier League for four clubs; Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers. He was named the African Footballer of the Year in 2001, being placed ahead of Samuel E’to, who was in third place, and completed the double by winning it again in 2002.
So far I have discussed the footballing side of his career, but that is not what he is most known for throughout his career and certainly not what the media have focused on while reporting on his transfer.
Diouf, who at the time was a Liverpool player, played against Celtic in March 2003 in the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. During the game, he fell into the crowd and a Celtic fan, who may or may not have meant any malice, patted him on the head as Diouf struggled back to his feet. Diouf did not take too kindly to this and spat at the fan before being pulled back by stewards. Following the match, Diouf was quick to apologise for the act, but still attempted to justify his actions.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last two days and want to apologise again to both the Celtic supporters and Liverpool supporters for my behaviour at Celtic Park.” Diouf said in a statement. “‘I remember falling back into the crowd and someone slapping me on the back of the head.
“I realise now that I took that contact in the wrong way, but at the time it genuinely frightened me because I had no idea what was going on behind me. But whatever the Celtic fan’s intentions, I was wrong to do what I did and I regret the way I reacted.”
Liverpool were quick to condemn his actions and fined him £5000, while UEFA imposed a two match ban.
Although he was punished and universally critiscised for his actions, he found himself involved in another spitting incident in November 2004. At the time he played for Bolton and spat in the face of opposing Portsmouth player Arjan de Zeeuw.
Bolton and the FA punished him with a two week fine and a three match ban respectively.
It feels like I am repeating myself, but Diouf was again quick to apologise for his actions.
“I deeply regret my actions and wish to publicly apologise to Arjan De Zeeuw and Portsmouth Football Club,” said Diouf. “I have let down my manager, Sam Allardyce, and team-mates. I am a role model to many thousands of fans throughout the world and my behaviour showed a lack of moral responsibility to the public who support me. I am deeply sorry and embarrassed about the incident.”
In September 2009 Diouf was accused of racially abusing a 14 year old boy ball when playing for Blackburn Rovers against Everton. Diouf is claimed to have reacted angrily when the ball boy was initially slow to return the ball to him and he then threw the ball “like a bone to a dog” as Diouf puts it himself. Diouf denies the claims and instead claims that Everton fans were abusive to him.
“People threw bananas at me, and the referee told me he would report this to the police. I have had problems before but never anything like the ones I had on Sunday. I don’t want to let this matter rest.”
Diouf also responded to the claims he made racist remarks.
“I didn’t even speak to him, the ball went out and I wanted to take the throw in quickly. The ball-boy threw the ball at me like a bone to a dog. I just told the assistant ref that the ball-boy should respect the players. And after that I left. But people in the stands said I aimed racist words to the kid.”
Most recently he was caught up in further controversy when it was claimed that during a game for Blackburn Rovers vs Queens Park Rangers, he mouthed off as Jamie Mackie lay on the ground with a broken leg. It is worth noting that Diouf was not involved in the incident that led to the broken leg. Mackie made the claims via his Twitter site.
“Proper disappointed that El Hadji Diouf was in my ear while am on the deck with a broken leg saying ‘f*ck you and f*ck your leg.'”
Queens Park Rangers manager, Neil Warnock, was rightly disgusted by the incident and described Diouf as a “Sewer rat”.
Although I have focused on the negatives here, and perhaps rightly so, but Diouf does some charity work that deserves recognition. In 2003, when he spat at a Celtic fan, he proceeded to donate two weeks wages to a charity of Celtic’s choosing. He is also founder and patron of The Dioufy Foundation, which focuses on helping the disadvantaged children in Senegal and the United Kingdom.
Even after weighing up his footballing skills and his charity work, I do have a feeling that many will always focus on his tendency for spitting, or his general unpleasantness, although I personally hope that for the next few months, he will allow us to focus on his footballing by avoiding any controversy.