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Pasta and chocolate fuel Swiss hopes

The World Cup has given Emil Bolli plenty of food for thought swissinfo.ch

Emil Bolli has all of the ingredients for success but Switzerland's team chef knows he cannot serve up World Cup victory on a platter.

This content was published on June 19, 2006 - 14:58

Bolli is a key member of a large support staff ensuring that no stone is left unturned in pursuit of success in Germany.

Bolli is a key member of a large support staff ensuring that no stone is left unturned in pursuit of success in Germany.

The 51-year-old always takes plentiful supplies of Swiss chocolate and muesli on Switzerland's travels since becoming team chef in 1996.

Diet is a crucial element in ensuring optimum performance on the pitch and Bolli has had to do his homework to make sure he provides the right nutritional balance for the players.

"I work in collaboration with nutritionists and it is quite a science making sure the meals do not contain too much fat or other harmful substances," he told swissinfo at the team's World Cup base in Bad Bertrich.

He travels from stadium to stadium; organising food supplies and helping various kitchens prepare the food.

"I don't try to take over in a hotel kitchen but I prefer to blend in and give guidance to the chefs when they need it," he said.

"The day before a game I always do a pasta buffet. On match days the players always get half a grapefruit, vegetable soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce, veal steak, mashed potatoes, rice, carrots and fruit salad.

"I know I can't serve up instant success on a plate, but the regular menu helps the players get in the right frame of mind during their preparations."

Bolli's first contact with the team came in 1989 when the squad at the time visited the Bern hotel where he was working. His fare went down so well that the players always returned when they were in the Swiss capital.

His big break came seven years later when Switzerland became nervous about travelling to Azerbaijan.

"The team was afraid that they would become ill if they ate the local food and they asked me to come along to take care of the meals," he said.

"Since then I have been to all of their away games and I have got to know the players well. They often come into the kitchen to thank me for the food and I have a special relationship with them."

If the boot fits

Kit manager Jean Benoit Schüpbach plays another crucial role in the team making sure, quite literally, that the boots fit.

He travels with the team in his own customised bus complete with an industrial sewing machine and sander.

"I make moulds of each player's feet to make sure the forces are equally distributed and balanced in each boot," he told swissinfo. "I can adapt their boots, adding shock absorbers and changing the studs according to their requirements."

Schüpbach takes dozens of boots in his bus so that players have several to choose from on any given day or can change them during a match.

The 42-year-old admits he gets nervous during matches, but not necessarily over the score.

"From the first minute of the game I can't breath any more because I'm concentrating so hard to see if the players' boots are right or if they need to change," he said.

"I'm just as nervous whether it's a World Cup game or a friendly, but I know how lucky I am to be here."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen and Mathias Froidevaux in Bad Bertrich

Key facts

Emil Bolli was born in canton Schwyz on November 2, 1954.
Jean Benoit Schüpbach was born on September 11, 1963 and lives in canton Vaud. He has a shop in Granges-Marnand specialising in footwear for footballers, skiers and cyclists.
Both have been a fixture with the Swiss team for six years and were with the Swiss squad at the European Championships in Portugal two years ago.

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In brief

The Swiss World Cup support staff also includes three doctors, three assistant coaches, a medical supplies manager, another kit manager and three physiotherapists.

Coach Köbi Kuhn and defender Philippe Senderos have a passion for sole fillets, goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler eats a lot of muesli and striker Alex Frei prefers clear soup with vegetables. Midfield player Blerim Dzemaili is Muslim and eats no pork.

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