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.
17. Jaap Stam (39) was for many years one of the most accomplished defenders in Europe. A physically imposing bulwark at the back, the Dutch stopper offered superb protection to his various team-mates between the posts and prevented many a goal with last-ditch interventions. Stam experienced success wherever he went, hitting the heights at PSV Eindhoven before winning the Premier League and FA Cup with Manchester United and helping the Red Devils claim the UEFA Champions League in a dramatic final against Bayern Munich in 1999. He then took his skills to Lazio and AC Milan in Italy, the home of catenaccio, where more trophies followed ahead of one last season back on home turf with Ajax. On the international stage, he enjoyed a lengthy run in the Netherlands’ first team, reaching the semi-finals at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ and again at UEFA EURO 2000, in one of the three UEFA European Championships he contested. Stam currently serves on the coaching staff at Dutch club Zwolle.
18. Imad Al Hosni (27) is a striker equipped with a powerful instinct for goal, as he has continually proved since making his debut for Oman at the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. His talent for finding the net quickly won him admirers and, after impressing with Al Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, he earned a move to Al Rayyan in neighbouring Qatar. From there, he tried his hand in Europe in the shape of a brief stay at Belgian side Charleroi, which ended with a return to Saudi Arabia and Al Ahli. With Oman, Al Hosni tasted triumph in the 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, a high-profile regional event.
19. Ebbe Sand (39) helped himself to a handsome goal haul during his playing days. Still lauded for his finishing abilities at Schalke, the forward started out with Brondby, where he was twice voted Danish Player of the Year and topped the country’s scoring charts in 1998. Following his move to Germany, he repeated that feat by outscoring his Bundesliga rivals in 2000/01, one of several high points during his time at Schalke. In the international realm, Sand appeared at two FIFA World Cups – France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002 – in addition to EURO 2000 and EURO 2004.
20. Thomas Nkono (56) belongs to a select band of goalkeepers to have made a lasting impression during their heyday. The Cameroonian No1 served between the sticks for the Indomitable Lions when they earned a surprise 1-1 draw with eventual winners Italy at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, and he was still wearing the gloves when they downed world champions Argentina in 1990. Nkono and Co went on to reach the quarter-finals during the latter tournament before their run was halted by England in an epic encounter, and four years later he was selected again for USA 1994. In the club arena, he spent much of his career with Barcelona side Espanyol and, from there, signed for Bolivar in Bolivia. Now back in Spain, he is currently sharing his skills as goalkeeping coach for his former team, overseeing his compatriot Carlos Kameni among others.
21. Marcelo Bielsa (56) steered Argentina to Olympic gold at Athens 2004 and came close to adding the Copa America title the same year, only for La Albiceleste to succumb to Brazil in the final. Those performances came two years after he was unable to prevent the South American giants suffering a group-stage exit at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Bielsa was back on the global stage at South Africa 2010, where his Chile side embarked on an entertaining campaign finally ended by eventual victors Spain. He is now set on achieving success with present employers Athletic Bilbao.
22. Dirk Kuyt (31) is a dynamic presence on the wing, where he continues to provide goals and assists for both club and country. The Dutch international initially rose to prominence at Feyenoord, putting in displays that caught the attention of Liverpool, and, since moving to Anfield in 2006, Dangerous Dirk has become a firm terrace favourite. The former Utrecht forward featured for the Netherlands at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany and was again involved as the Oranje finished runners-up four years later, his dream ending when Andres Iniesta broke the deadlock for Spain in extra time.
23. Giovane Elber (39) carved out an excellent career in Europe, where he first began making headlines by topping the Swiss league scoring table and helping Grasshoppers lift the Swiss Cup. The prolific striker left the Zurich outfit for Stuttgart and subsequently paraded his talents at Bayern Munich, winning several Bundesliga crowns, a Champions League title and the Intercontinental Cup, as well as taking the individual goalscoring plaudits in Germany’s top tier. Lyon was his next port of call and his silverware collection grew there too, but club success had little impact on his standing at international level, where his major tournament experience with Brazil was limited to the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Elber finally hung up his boots while representing Cruzeiro back in his homeland.