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How to eat like an England footballer: Meet Southgate's trusted head chef who is fuelling 2022 World Cup push

08:00 GMT 25/01/2022
England chef GFX
The Three Lions are aiming to lift their first major trophy in 56 years in Qatar, and Omar Meziane is the man tasked with organising the squad's meals

Like the players in the England squad, Omar Meziane has spent much of his life proving himself worthy of a call-up.

Meziane, a renowned London chef who has since moved into sports through his beloved League One side Wycombe Wanderers, now cooks for the Three Lions squad, forming part of their 2018 World Cup and subsequent Euro 2020 campaigns.

"I actually got a text message asking me if I would like to join the senior men's team," he tells GOAL of when he received his call-up. "It was kind of like when a player gets selected and it is an honour, but I couldn't compare it to what our players do!”

Meziane’s Moroccan father ran a restaurant, which led to a life spent in the kitchen, and his own success is owed to decades of hard work.

As well as cooking for the England squad, he is a private chef for a host of Chelsea and Fulham players, and has published his own cookbook.

He not only cooks but offers general advice to England’s top players, like Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling, about their diets.

"Gareth Southgate is the boss and he runs the show. He is one of the greatest human beings I’ve met and I don’t say it lightly," Meziane says of life at St. George’s Park.

"The environment we've created is to do nothing other than win, succeed and be the best that we possibly can.

"It’s like one big family that England set-up. It’s the best players in the highest performance centre. It blows my mind that I’ve been involved in it for so long.

"It is magical, but it's also really really hard work. It is pressured work and it is one you would have to take seriously and kind of shoulder that responsibility of everything always being right.

"I like to think that with any of the players I have spoken to that I have made some impact. No matter how tiny it may be.

"I just like to show them that food is more than chicken, broccoli and quinoa and can be exciting and delicious."

Footballers’ diets are controlled more than ever as demands on bodies grow due to spiralling fixture lists and the competitiveness of the English game growing to new heights.

Clubs and national teams now employ top professionals such as Meziane and, furthermore, the players go home to private chefs to help them control their intake of food.

"It is about cooking for performance and recovery. It's also about the right foods at the right time," Meziane explains.

"I'm very much driven by my roots, those North African flavours and textures since working in the sport. We all know what’s good for us. It’s about having a good, balanced diet. That means good quality fish, turkey and chicken.

"We mix that with the right amount of carbohydrates and plenty of vegetables. Playing two games a week, you've got to ensure those players have to ensure that they are fuelling correctly.

"If they aren't playing so often then you have to adjust the intake as they aren't burning as many calories.”

Around matches, food is carefully calibrated for maximum performance, but that does not mean that treats such as brownies, hamburgers or pizza are off the menu.

"The day before the game, we want to ensure that I make the food really delicious,” Meziane reveals.;

“But it's also going to be lots of lean protein, maybe turkey or chicken. It's going to be an increased amount of carbohydrates, and that carbohydrate can essentially come from anywhere.

"It could be a plate full of pasta with some pesto. At that point, you might also introduce a chocolate brownie.

"Their bodies are going to store it overnight so that they can play the next day. It's going to give you the energy the next day for the game. And then that's pretty much the same on game day.

“After the match, it is about recovery, which means chefs can lift a lot of restrictions on what they feed.

"Post-game, it's all about trying to get all of that energy back in that they just expended after 90 minutes.

"That's where a hamburger or a pizza, something that tastes really good, that's really quick and convenient for them to eat so that we can refuel them.

"They are then essentially going to be able to recover quicker because they might have a game again in three days' time.”

Meziane also has his own speciality, which has proven a hit with the England stars.

"Overall, I know that my katsu curry (pictured below) is a winner every time with footballers. I think that will be my ultimate legacy at the FA!

“So I think it's that constant cycle of really good quality ingredients cooked beautifully."

Southgate and his players are in safe hands with Meziane, who is already preparing for the World Cup in Qatar this winter.

"I need to put myself absolutely in the right mindset first, which is that I am here to work so hard," he concludes.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure that my part of the bigger machine is absolutely right. I genuinely think it's going to be an incredible tournament.

"It will be lovely because when we win it on December 17, we'll all be home just in time for Christmas and then we can switch off for a little bit. I personally am desperately excited about it."