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Spain's recipe for success

Fuelling Spain's progress to the last four has been food prepared by chef Javier Arbizu, who travelled to France for the finals a matter of days after feeding La Roja to FIFA World Cup glory.

Javier Arbizu has been cooking in the colours of Spain for 20 years
Javier Arbizu has been cooking in the colours of Spain for 20 years ©Sportsfile

Any nation or team aspiring for greatness must have the right blend of ingredients and in chef Javier Arbizu, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have just that.

Hailing from San Sebastian, Arbizu has been serving up food for the RFEF since his appointment in 1990, travelling to youth and senior tournaments with all Spanish national squads. His latest destination on what has been a whirlwind few weeks is Normandy for the finals of the ninth UEFA European Under-19 Championship, Arbizu having not long arrived back from South Africa where his dishes helped fuel La Roja's charge to a first FIFA World Cup triumph.

During his two decades in the post, Arbizu has been part of the staff at five World Cups, four UEFA European Championships and three Olympic Games – including Barcelona in 1992 – not to mention various other competitions around the world. His South African adventure, unsurprisingly, is his most fulfilling assignment to date. "Of course, I'm very proud of it," Arbizu, who – in Vicente del Bosque – is working under his sixth senior coach, told UEFA.com.

"It was very easy for me to work there because there were all sorts of different products. We were there a year earlier [at the FIFA Confederations Cup] so I already knew what to expect. It was an easy job and I'm very proud of it. The people there helped a lot so I wasn't alone. They were very nice people."

Arbizu was part of the subsequent Spanish victory procession which slowly but surely made its way through the throng of euphoric supporters on the streets of Madrid, eventually arriving for an appointment with King Juan Carlos and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the prime minister. Less than three days later, however, Arbizu was on the move again, travelling to France with the U19s. So, is he in need of a rest? "No, I'm not tired; it's relaxing here," he said.

Such assignments mean Arbizu can be away from home for up to 200 days a year, during which time he has seen the transition of some of La Roja's precocious teenagers into World Cup winners. "I've known [Fernando] Torres, [Andrés] Iniesta and Xavi [Hernández] since they were 16," explained Arbizu, who previously worked for Real Sociedad de Fútbol and helped run a restaurant before joining the RFEF. "This current [U19] selection is very good. Before we had to wait but now they are good even though they are so young. It's a very good squad and they've prepared well."

His enthusiasm for his job and fondness for those he is catering for in Caen is clear. "When I cook for young players I cook just like I would if I were doing it for my kids," he said. "I love the team. I'm not thinking about retirement just yet because if I did I would probably kill myself, I wouldn't know what to do with my time. As long as I'm healthy and the federation are happy I will keep working for them."

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