In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names from Planet Football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
Mario Basler (43) represented Germany at only one FIFA World Cup™ (USA 1994) despite being one of his country’s most gifted attacking players. The Bundesliga’s leading goalscorer in 1995, Basler played for a number of German clubs over the course of his career, but first came to attention at Werder Bremen, with whom he won the German Cup in 1994. Two more excellent seasons followed before Bavarian giants Bayern Munich snapped him up. During his three years in Munich he added two Bundesliga crowns, another German Cup and three League Cups to his tally. Another three-year spell, this time for FC Kaiserslautern, was followed by a move outside the country to Qatar’s Al Rayyan. Basler’s love affair with football has extended beyond his playing days: the former attacking midfielder or winger is now a coach. Currently gaining experience on the staff of some of Germany’s most venerable clubs, Basler’s ultimate ambition is to take charge of a Bundesliga side of his own.
Karim Benzema (24) will look fondly back on 2011. Named France’s Player of the Year, the talented forward not only helped Les Bleus qualify for the finals of UEFA EURO 2012 but hit a rich vein of goalscoring form for Real Madrid, both at the end of last season and the start of the current league campaign. Success came early to the Frenchman, who led his country to victory at the UEFA U-17 Championship and made a precocious debut for the Lyon first team, where he won a grand total of four league titles, a Coupe de France and two Trophees des Champions. The reward for his success was a move to Spanish giants Real, where he has been for three seasons, the most recent of which saw his side reclaim the Copa del Rey. On the strength of his stellar turn for France in EURO 2012 qualifiers, not to mention his glittering performances in La Liga, it seems safe to say that Benzema is one to watch for the future.
Geremi’s (33) career for club and country has taken the indefatigable Cameroonian around the world several times over. For his country, the defensive midfielder played in two FIFA World Cups (Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010), two FIFA Confederations Cups, first in 2001 and then again in 2003 when Cameroon were runners-up. He also appeared at a record seven editions of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, winning two consecutive titles in 2000 and 2002. In recognition of his big-match experience, he was selected for Cameroon’s Olympic squad in 2000, which carried off the gold medal. Geremi started young, winning the Cameroon league with Racing Bafoussam at the tender age of 16, before travelling abroad, first to Paraguay, then to Turkey, where a two-season stint at Genclerbirligi brought him to the attention of Real Madrid. He flourished in Spain, his tireless efforts winning him a regular starting spot, the praise of former Real coach Del Bosque, not to mention a UEFA Champions League crown, a La Liga title and a Supercopa. Then it was back to his travels. A loan to Middlesborough was followed by four seasons with Chelsea, where he added to his trophy cabinet with two Premier League titles and the FA Charity Shield. He stayed in England for his next move, playing three seasons at Newcastle United before a brief stint with Turkey’s Ankaragucu brought him to Greek club Larissa.
Matias Almeyda (38) was often described as the complete defensive midfielder, a man whose very presence on the pitch could mean the difference between defeat and victory. That said, his participation in Argentina’s squad for the FIFA World Cup campaigns of 1998 and 2002 brought the South Americans little luck, with their group-stage exit at Korea/Japan one of the shocks of the tournament. His biggest international triumph was a silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He gained his nickname of El Pelado playing for River Plate, where he won three league titles and the Libertadores Cup before moving to Europe, initially with Spanish side Sevilla before soon switching to Italian powerhouses Lazio. He won a number of titles in Rome, including a single Scudetto, two Coppa Italias and an Italian Supercoppa in addition to a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup. He stayed in Italy after leaving Lazio, with spells at Parma, Inter Milan and Brescia, before returning to his native Argentina, where he plied his trade for Quilmes. Following his side’s elimination from the Libertadores Cup he announced his retirement, but a year-and-a-half later he made his comeback, turning out for Norwegian side FK Lyn. Shortly afterwards he returned to Argentina, where he joined up again with River. After the side dropped to the second division this summer the aging warrior declared that he was hanging up his boots for good and was promptly appointed coach of the ailing side, tasked with restoring them to their former glory.
Luis Hernandez (48) is best known for his extraordinary run of form at France 1998, the Mexican striker hitting the back of the net four times in four successive games. His Korea/Japan 2002 campaign was less successful and he failed to score once in three outings. Hernandez has plenty of experience of major tournaments, playing in two FIFA Confederations Cups and winning the title in 1999, not to mention his knack for scoring goals. Top scorer at the 1997 Copa America, he also headed the tables at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a competition he played in three times. His career has spanned both North and South America and included spells with Cruz Azul, Queretaro, Monterrey, Necaxa, Tigres, CF America, Veracruz and Jaguares in Mexico, Boca Juniors in Argentina and Los Angeles Galaxy in the United States.
Serginho (58) was a member of Brazil’s super-talented squad at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, when he scored against Australia and Argentina. The centre-forward spent most of his footballing career in Brazil, where he played for Sao Paulo, Santos, Corinthians, Sao Caetano and Atletico Sorocaba, with a spell at Portugal’s Maritimo and another in Egypt with Arab Contractors. Serginho has twice been top scorer in the Brazilian league, with Atletico Sorocaba in 1982 and again in 1983 with Santos.
Stephen Appiah (30) captained the Ghana side during their historic debut appearance at a FIFA World Cup in 2006, when the Black Stars shrugged off any first-time nerves to reach the Round of 16, thanks in part to an Appiah strike against USA. As well as a second FIFA World Cup appearance at South Africa 2010, the versatile Appiah represented his country in the 2000 and 2008 editions of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. He began his club career for Accra-based outfit Hearts of Oak before his big break came with a move to Italy’s Udinese, where he played for three seasons, before travelling between Parma, Brescia and Juventus. A move to Turkey’s Fenerbahce proved to be an anomaly. Three seasons later he was back in Italy again with Bologna, where he stayed for a single season before playing at Cesena last term.