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WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Boixel's magic hands
May 30th, 2002 12AM



By Paul Kennedy In Seoul France's hopes of repeating as World Cup champion may depend on the magic hands of 44-year-old osteopath Philippe Boixel. Boixel's job is to get star Zinedine Zidane back in shape after the French playmaker suffered a thigh injury in last Sunday's friendly with South Korea in Suwon. Boixel was a celebrity in French soccer long before Zidane was injured. Boixel resides in Laval, works for English club Arsenal -- he goes back with Gunner manager Arsene Wenger to Wenger's days at Monaco -- but spends much of his time in a hotel room near Charles de Gaulle Airport outside of Paris, where he works on getting injured players back into shape. In the space of five days last March, he worked on Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Ronaldo. His most famous case was that of Italian Christian Vieri. Boixel got Bobo ready to play again in less than three weeks after Italian specialists had been unable to get the Italian fit in eight months. Boixel, who has worked with the French national team since 1993, has spent most of the week with Zidane, who may miss the entire first round. Boixel does electromagnetic work and uses ultrasound in addition to massage.

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