In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
16. Tahar El Khalej (45) contributed to Morocco’s return to the FIFA World Cup™, at USA 1994, and subsequently took part in France 1998, where he earned plaudits for his strong performances. The central defender also played in the 1998 and 2000 CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments with the Atlas Lions. He began his club career with Kawkab Marrakech, before moving to Portugal, where he donned the colours of Uniao Leiria and Benfica. A spell in English football saw El Khalej turn out for Southampton and then Charlton Athletic.
17. Rebecca Smith (32) has participated in a host of major competitions with New Zealand, including the FIFA Women’s World Cups™ of 2007 and 2011, and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments of 2008 and 2012. At London 2012, her side were eliminated in the quarter-finals by a formidable United States team, who went on to triumph at the event. The reliable defender gained a solid apprenticeship at Duke University in North Carolina (USA), prior to stepping up to senior football with AJAX of Southern California. She then tried her luck in Europe, playing for FFC Frankfurt and for city rivals FSV. Following three seasons with Swedish outfit Sunnana SK and a brief spell with Newcastle United Jets, Smith signed for current club Wolfsburg in 2009.
18. Noor Sabri (29) is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers to ever represent Iraq. He has enjoyed some memorable achievements with the Lions of Mesopotamia, playing a key role in their maiden AFC Asian Cup success in 2007. He won the 2002 West Asian Football Federation Championship and the 2005 West Asian Games, appeared at the 2004 Olympic Football Tournament, where the Iraqis came close to winning a medal, and secured a third-place finish at the 2012 Arab Nations Cup. In addition, the confident shot-stopper was part of the Iraqi squad that competed at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, but he had to watch his team’s three matches unfold from the bench. At the beginning of the year, he led his compatriots to a runners-up spot at the Gulf Cup of Nations, where he was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament. Sabri has played for several Iraqi clubs, including Al Quwa Al Jawiya, Al Talaba, Duhok, Zakho, Najaf and Al Naft, as well as for Iranian outfit Mes Kerman.
19. Jose Amavisca (42) left a significant imprint on Spanish football, despite never playing at the FIFA World Cup. The skilful wide-man represented La Roja at UEFA EURO 1996 and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he picked up a gold medal. At club level, he started out with Real Valladolid, who sent him out on loan to Lleida. A transfer to Real Madrid led to his adding two Liga titles, a Spanish Super Cup, a UEFA Champions League crown and an Intercontinental Cup to his footballing CV. A two-year stint at Racing Santander followed, before Deportivo signed him in 2001. After helping the La Coruna-based side to hoist the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana, as well as finish second in the league table behind Valencia in 2002, Amavisca saw out the remainder of his career with Espanyol. The international winger was voted Spanish Player of the Year in 1995.
20. Paulo Bento (44) not only enjoyed a brilliant playing career, but is in the process of building a fine reputation as a coach. The combative defensive midfielder appeared at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan and at UEFA EURO 2000 with Portugal, aiding his team-mates to reach the semi-finals at the latter tournament. His first taste of club success came at Estrela Amadora, with whom he held aloft the Portuguese Cup. After spells with Vitoria Guimaraes, Benfica – where he won the Portuguese Cup again – and Spanish outfit Real Oviedo, he put pen to paper with Sporting Lisbon. Bento would go on to attain legendary status with the club from the capital, helping them to claim a Portuguese League, Cup and Super Cup treble in 2002. Post-retirement, the Lisbon native promptly took charge at Estadio Jose Alvalade, leading Os Verde-e-Brancos to two Portuguese Cups and two Portuguese Super Cups, as well as to two successive – although ultimately unsuccessful – Portuguese League Cup finals. He was appointed Portuguese national coach in the wake of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and subsequently guided his charges to the semi-finals of EURO 2012. He is currently involved in a closely contested qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.
21. Faryd Mondragon (42) has worn the No1 jersey for Colombia for over a decade, during which time he starred at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, the 1997 Copa America, two CONCACAF Gold Cups and the 1992 Olympic Football Tournament in Barcelona. He has experienced a somewhat nomadic professional career, playing for high-profile clubs in several different countries. The athletic custodian came through the ranks at Deportivo Cali in his homeland, where he also defended the colours of Real Cartagena and Santa Fe. He then exported his goalkeeping skills, performing for Paraguayan giants Cerro Porteno, French side Metz, Real Zaragoza, Argentinos Juniors, Cologne, Philadelphia Union, Galatasaray and Independiente. It was only in Turkey and Argentina that he managed to lay his hands on silverware, however, landing two league titles and a national cup while at Galatasaray and winning the Recopa Sudamericana and Supercopa Libertadores with Independiente.
22. Hamad Al Montashari (31) has established himself as one of the most competent defenders in the history of Saudi Arabian football. He represented his nation at Germany 2006 and at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup. It was with Al Ittihad that his reputation was truly forged, however, as his defensive qualities allowed the Jeddah-based club to emerge victorious from two AFC Champions League campaigns in a row and compete at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2005, where they finished fourth. At domestic level, the centre-back has picked up four Saudi League winners’ medals and lifted the Crown Prince Cup on two occasions. Al Montashari won the Asian Player of the Year award in 2005.