At 19, Hannibal Mejbri is considered the greatest promise of Tunisian football. He could make it big at the World Cup in Qatar – but his father once had completely different plans.
His son should be a doctor or a lawyer, Lotfi Mejbri, Hannibal’s father, once told the Paris daily “Le Parisien“said. That was much more realistic than a career as a footballer anyway. And in the unlikely event that his son, then 13 years old and already in the focus of many players’ agents because of his extraordinary talent, should manage to earn his money with football , he shouldn’t neglect school anyway. After all, he should have more in his head than just one “pois chiche“, a chickpea.
Six years have passed since then. Hannibal Mejbri, now 19, is studying neither medicine nor law. Instead, he is the youngest player in Tunisia’s World Cup squad. And although he is not yet a regular player, most eyes are on him.
Hannibal Mejbri – Flashy hairdo, flashy player
This is not only due to his shock of hair, which is reminiscent of the Simpsons character Tingeltangel-Bob. Because of this resemblance, fans of LeedsUnited insulted by chanting at the FA Youth Cup. Mejbri won the game with Manchester United and afterwards amused himself with the comparisons on his Instagram channel.
His dynamism, his class on the ball and the fact that the 1.84-metre-tall playmaker has the ability to set the pace of a game also make him an eye-catcher. He has the gift “to see things before others”, says Reda Bekhti, once his youth coach at Paris FC, to the Internet portal “Goal.com”. A modern midfielder who can conquer balls, switch quickly and finish.
Named after one of the greatest generals of antiquity
His parents are of Tunisian descent, his father played in the second highest Tunisian league. Hannibal is a reference to the Carthaginian general who gave the Roman Empire a memorable defeat in the Second Punic War and left it on the brink of collapse. A strategist who crossed the Alps with probably more than 50,000 soldiers, thousands of horsemen and dozens of elephants. Of course, the army leader Hannibal, a conductor of death, has nothing to do with the soccer player Hannibal, a conductor of the game. But if his parents tried to give him the traits of a fighter by choosing his first name, then they succeeded.
Hannibal Mejbri has been in the limelight since he was a child
Mejbri was born in Paris and grew up in a working-class district. He started playing football at Paris FC. He was still in elementary school when an agent caught his eye. Lyon, Barcelona, both clubs from Manchester, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, PSG, Bayern Munich: They are said to have all shown interest in him. As a ten-year-old, a number of fans wanted to take photos with him at a youth tournament. Adidas signed him when he was 13.
In the footsteps of Henry and Mbappé
Mejbri switched to the talent factory of the AC Boulogne Billancourt. He, like Thierry Henry, Kylian Mbappé and other big names in French football, has that National Institute of Football in Clairefontaine run through, the academy of the French Football Association. He played for a year in the youth team at AS Monaco before Manchester United brought him to the academy in 2019 for around 10 million euros. Hannibal was 16.
Gary Neville praised his mentality
In 2021 he made his debut in the premier league. He played there three times for the “Reds“When he came on as a substitute against Liverpool when the score was 4-0 in April this year, he was bold, even boisterous, and not afraid to engage in tough tackles with the likes of Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita. United legend Gary Neville said afterwards that he was proud of the will of the young talent.
Loan to Birmingham: A step backwards to move forward
In order to gain match practice, Manchester United has it on in the summer Birmingham City borrowed. In the second-highest cash register, he played 15 games this season and scored two goals. His coach John Eustace is a fan of him, of his personality. “He’s a fantastic player, he brings something special to the pitch.” And he broke all records in terms of the distance covered by a player. Often, however, he leads duels on the edge of what is permitted. He must learn to control his passion.
Decision for the Tunisian national team
Hannibal chose the “Eagle of Carthage”, as the Tunisian national soccer team is called, because of his parents’ ancestry. And because the competition in France’s national team, for which he played at junior level, is significantly greater. He made 18 games for Tunisia. There should be at least three more at this World Cup: in Group D against Denmark (22.11.2022), Australia (26.11.) and his country of birth France (30.11.).
Hannibal Mejbri may not have embarked on an academic career, but he still fulfilled his father’s wish to a certain extent: after all, as his youth coach Bekhti once put it, he has exceptional intelligence, and not just on the pitch. So he has more in his brain than a “pois chiche”, a chickpea.