Food, glorious food
© FIFA.com

There is nothing tourists enjoy more than sampling the local cuisine. Spare a thought then for the players taking part in the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007. For them the gourmet pleasures of the Far East are strictly off limits.

As everyone knows, to maintain performance levels on the pitch footballers need to keep a very close eye on what they eat away from it. Drastic changes in diet are not recommended, which is why most of the players on duty at China 2007 are unable to dip into the vast array of delightful dishes that Asia's biggest country has to offer.

The USA squad took no risks with their dietary intake, forwarding specially drawn up menus to the hotels where they would be staying months in advance of their arrival in China. England have their own chef with them to supervise everything that goes on in the kitchens, and not to be outdone, world champions Germany have a trusted Chinese chef monitoring what goes on their plates.

The holders came across their culinary overseer when they travelled to China at the start of the year for the Four Nations Tournament. And by a strange quirk of coincidence his usual line of work is knocking out traditional specialities in German restaurants here, so there should be no danger of Prinz, Lingor and Co feeling homesick when they sit down for dinner.

For their part, the Brazil squad seem a little reluctant to try out some of the local delicacies on offer. "They eat everything here - snakes, turtles, frogs," said FIFA Women's World Player Marta a little uneasily. It is a feeling obviously shared by her team-mates, who have told team officials that such exotic delights are definitely off the menu. "The hotel staff are going to every length to make sure everything is just right here," explained Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos. "The food is different, but we're getting used to it."

Like their South American rivals, Argentina have been unwilling to experiment too much, restricting themselves to the various rice dishes served in the hotel buffet. As for Denmark, they gave themselves a little treat before their decisive clash with Brazil: a team dinner at McDonald's.

Feeling at home
One thing the teams are all agreed on is the superb service they are receiving from the staff in their various hotels. "The people of Chengdu have been so good to us," said USA coach Greg Ryan. "I'm having a job getting used to the spicy food though," he added, which perhaps explains why the team packed numerous bags of cookies and jars of peanut butter, a traditional American favourite and a source of vital proteins for players not tempted by the local meat dishes.

Canada captain Christine Sinclair, meanwhile, said: "I've heard from various people that we lucked out by landing here in Hangzhou, and it's been a big bonus to end up in a hotel with a Starbucks right next door! That could well be the thing I'll miss most... Plus there's a Haagen Dazs cafe there too.

"The food might have been a worry before we arrived but it's actually been really good. We don't have a cook with us but we do have a nutritionist who advises the hotel on what to make, and they've been very good in cooking us North American-type meals that all of us like and are used to. Obviously we're going on to Chengdu now but hopefully the food will be just as good. And if there's a Starbucks, that would be perfect. "

The advent of globalisation has made sure the girls do not miss their home comforts, and as the competition enters its decisive phase the question of what they eat becomes even more important. Even so, FIFA.com hopes they get the chance to sample at least some of the delights Chinese cuisine has to offer before they finally head for home.