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Marathon man hangs up his gloves

Tosio is bidding farewell to a 14-year playing career

(Keystone Archive)

Tuesday night's gripping ice hockey encounter between Bern and Lugano may have ended with victory for the men from Ticino, but when the penalty drama was over, all eyes were on Bern goalkeeper Renato Tosio as he stepped off the ice for the final time.

Tosio has become a living legend not only in the Swiss capital but across the country, pursuing his career with a level of loyalty and commitment that has become scarce in modern sport.

The St Gallen-born goalie has played for just two clubs in a career spanning 15 years. After making a name for himself in just one season at Chur, Tosio joined Bern in 1986 and has been a permanent fixture between the posts since then.

Tuesday's match completed a world-record setting run of 655 consecutive matches for the side. Despite the disappointment of the penalty shootout which ended Bern's bid for a place in this year's Swiss playoff finals, Tosio was being mobbed by adoring fans for more than an hour after leaving his goal.

"I do have mixed feelings after ending my career with a defeat," Tosio told swissinfo from amid his crowd of worshippers. "But I have a nice career behind me and it's been great to have all these people saying goodbye and wishing me luck. This is what I wanted - to be going out while people still have fond memories of me."

Tosio himself will take no shortage of fond memories away with him from Bern. The charismatic goalie won four league titles with the side during a career which also included 183 international caps.

As for that incredible uninterrupted run in goal, Tosio insists that serious toil and good fortune both played a role.

"I work very hard on my body during the summertime," Tosio explained. "And I also take very good care of what I eat. But of course it was also important that all the different coaches I've worked for wanted me as their number one goalie. I was also lucky not to get any serious injuries or illnesses."

With a glorious playing past behind him, Tosio is now looking ahead to a challenging future off the ice. In keeping with his reputation for loyalty, he announced before Tuesday's match that he would be returning to his first club, Chur, to take up a position as sporting director.

"I will be taking responsibility for what happens on the ice," he told swissinfo. "After 14 years here in Bern I have some good ideas to give back to Chur.

"It may seem like small beer in Chur compared to what there is here at Bern, but I believe I can do a lot there. The people of Chur and the board want to give me a chance, so I'm taking that chance and I hope I can make a career as successful as the one I made here."

But will Tosio be tempted to put his gloves back on in Chur if things aren't going according to plan? "Maybe," he admits with a grin, but only under certain circumstances.

"Perhaps in a fun game - something in the senior league. But only as a forward. I've already asked the seniors if I can come into the team, but only if I can play upfront. They said yes."

The incredible playing career may have come to an end, but the warm relationship between Tosio and his adoring Swiss public looks set to run and run.

by Mark Ledsom


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