In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays during the coming week.
Kristine Lilly (41) represented USA in the first five FIFA Women’s World Cup™ tournaments, lifting the trophy twice and finishing third on three other occasions. In total, she played thirty matches in the competition, scoring eight goals. At the Olympics, the attack-minded American picked up two gold medals and one silver. During her long and successful 24-year career, Lilly amassed an astonishing 352 international appearances, writing her own page in football’s record books in the process. She pulled on the jerseys of the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Boston Breakers in the United States, as well as Tyreso and Orebro in Sweden. After having hung up her boots in Boston, she was then appointed assistant coach of the club.
Walter Gargano (28) has enjoyed an exceptional twelve months, securing the Copa America with Uruguay and the Coppa Italia with Napoli. Gargano also helped La Celeste to regain global prominence at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where the South Americans claimed a creditable fourth place. Gargano began his professional career at Danubio, where he was part of a team that won two Uruguayan league titles. He signed for current club Napoli five years ago, playing a key role in their recent revival, which culminated in May with the capture of the Coppa Italia against newly-crowned Serie A champions Juventus.
Mehdi Mahdavikia (35) participated in Iran’s long-awaited return to the FIFA World Cup, at France 1998, where he scored the winning goal in a memorable victory over USA. He was also part of the Iranian squad that earned a point at Germany 2006. Mahdavikia played in four AFC Asian Cups in a row, from 1996 onwards, twice earning third-placed finishes. The right-winger started at Persepolis, with whom he won three Iranian championships. He then secured a prestigious move to Germany, where he starred for Bochum and then Hamburg. He remained at the latter club for several seasons, winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup, before being transferred to Eintracht Frankfurt. He subsequently moved home to Iran, where he turned out for Steel Azin, Damash, and Persepolis again. In terms of individual accolades, Mahdavikia was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2003.
Hulk (26) has become one of Brazilian football’s biggest stars over the last few years. He is yet to appear at a major international tournament with his national side, but will likely be hopeful of using the upcoming Olympic Football Tournament in London as a springboard to further success with Brazil. The explosive forward started off at Vitoria in his homeland, before packing his bags for Japan, where he defended the colours of Kawasaki Frontale, Consadole Sapporo and Tokyo Verdy, with whom he finished top scorer in the second division. It was after signing for FC Porto that he began to truly make a name for himself, his goals helping Os Dragões to rack up three domestic league championships, three Portuguese Cups and three Portuguese Super Cups, as well as the UEFA Europa League title. In addition, the Primeira Liga player of the season award was bestowed upon the prolific attacker in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Felix Magath (59) can look back with pride on a fruitful career, both as a player and as a coach. As part of a strong West Germany side, he triumphed at the UEFA European Championship in 1980 and finished runners-up at two FIFA World Cups, Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986. At club level, he won three Bundesliga titles and lifted the European Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup with Hamburg. After hanging up his boots, his transition to the dugout was highly successful, as he went on to guide Stuttgart to the Intertoto Cup, Bayern Munich to two consecutive league and cup doubles and Wolfsburg to an unexpected Bundesliga title.
Marek Hamsik (25) played a large part in Slovakia qualifying for their first-ever FIFA World Cup as an independent nation. Hamsik and Co performed admirably at South Africa 2010, advancing to the knockout stages at the expense of defending champions Italy. Domestically, the attacking midfielder came through the ranks at Slovan Bratislava, before moving to Italy to join Brescia. He was then transferred to Napoli, where he has so far participated in five Serie A campaigns, hoisted the Italian Cup and twice won the Slovakian Player of the Year award.
Pedro (25) will be able to celebrate his birthday with gusto this year, having just returned from Poland and Ukraine, where his all-conquering Spain side emerged victorious at UEFA EURO 2012. This success, his second with La Roja after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, was particularly pleasing for Pedro, who had missed a significant part of the season through injury. As a Barcelona player, he has accumulated a remarkable number of winners’ medals, including three La Liga championships, two Spanish Cups, three Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.