Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud, left, guided his country to victory at the 2007 Asian Cup. ((AHMAD ZAMRONI/AFP/Getty Images))


Born: March 2, 1983, in Kirkuk, Iraq

Position: Forward

Nickname: Desert Fox

Clubs played for: Began his career at Baghdad club Al-Talaba in 2001 before moving to Qatar when he signed with Al-Khor Sports Club. Next up was a move to Al-Gharafa, where Mahmoud became one of the most prolific scorers in Qatar and won a pair of league titles.

International career: Mahmoud began with the under-19 side in 2001 before making his debut for the Iraqi national team a year later. Since then, the talented forward has become a mainstay for Iraq, helping his country finish fourth at the 2004 Athens Olympics and win gold at the 2007 Asian Cup.

Why is he so special? Ever since being voted 2003 Asian youth player of the year, Mahmoud has established himself as captain of the Iraqi national team and one of the best players in all of Asia.

His most famous moment: Mahmoud scored the winning goal against Saudi Arabia in the finals of the 2007 Asian Cup, and was named tournament MVP.

He said it: "We wrote our names into the history books as we won the [Asian Cup] for the first time [in 2007]. What was more significant was that with such tremendous success we put a smile back on the faces of our people."

What they're saying about him: "How would Kaka have performed with the constant threat of assassination and kidnap, with the spectre of sectarian violence against his family hanging over him, with his country in flames and with the pressure of knowing that his position as captain of the national team constituted the only glue that held his homeland together? For overcoming these barriers, and thriving on an international platform, there was an even better candidate for the [2007 FIFA] world footballer of the year award: Younis Mahmoud." (James Montague, British reporter)

Here's an interesting fact: Mahmoud ranked No. 2 in Arabian Business magazine's Power 100 List for 2008.