Raja Casablanca midfielder Chemseddine Chtibi could not have chosen a better setting for celebrating his 31st birthday on Saturday, with the all-new Stade d’Agadir packed to the rafters with nearly 35,000 fans for Le Rajaoui’s FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 quarter-final against CF Monterrey of Mexico.
To set the seal on the occasion, the birthday boy was handed a gift in the 24th minute, when Rayados keeper Jonathan Orozco failed to cut out Zakaria El Hachimi’s teasing cross from the right, allowing the grateful Chtibi to slide the ball into an empty net and set the North Africans on the road to a 2-1 win.
“It’s a great day and we put in a fantastic performance,” the hero of the hour told FIFA.com. “We made the whole stadium happy with our victory and the fans gave us so much support. My family are foremost in my mind right now. They’ve helped me every step of the way, especially my mother. I’m so happy and I hope they are too.”
While the Chtibi family were no doubt delighted at their boy’s exploits, there was another important contributor to his side’s special day in Agadir, as he explained: ”Yesterday being Friday I went to the mosque. Someone came up to me and said: ‘I had a dream about you and you’re going to score, I promise.’ I never thought things would actually work out that way, but I want him to know that he was right and I’ve had a fantastic birthday, one I’m going to remember all my life.”
There could well be more gifts to come, with the Moroccans now set for a semi-final against Atletico Mineiro. “It’s another chance for me to make a little bit of history,” he said after being reminded by FIFA.com that he is the only player in the history of Moroccan football to have won the national cup competition, the Coupe du Trone, three times in a row with three different teams: FUS de Rabat, MAS Fes and Raja Casablanca, all between 2011 and 2013.
“I hope we’ll be able to put in a great performance, make the final and give everyone in Morocco something to shout about,” he said. “We’re going to play against Ronaldinho, who’s a magician. It would be a wonderful gift if I could swap shirts with him.”
Putting his personal happiness aside, and showing that giving really is better than receiving, he added: “The biggest birthday present of all for me, though, would be to make the people of Morocco happy.”