CHENNAI : Friday morning at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus in Bengaluru was different. The men’s hockey players swapped their playing sticks for cooking ladles and went into the canteen to cook for 55 people (48 probables plus the coaching staff).It was meant to be a bonding exercise but by the time the cooking was done, the players and staff stumbled upon an entirely different thing. The food they made was actually better — in terms of nutrition, taste and variety — when compared to what SAI was catering. The team made more than five dishes, including two dry chicken ones (grilled and shallow fried). There were lots of vegetables also and the players left the dining table with a smile on their faces.
It’s a sentiment the players have seldom had over the last few months. According to an email sent by men’s coach Harendra Singh to Hockey India president Rajinder Singh, the food at SAI has been bad. “Food quality has been below par. Excessive oil and fat throughout. Bone with lack of meats. Some of the cases of players and staff, insect, bugs and hair were found in food (sic).”
The concern does not pertain only to access to proper food. A few of the players’ blood work have been showing discrepancies. “It’s vital for these high performance athletes to have meals which consist entire nutrition. Recently, we conducted all 48 athletes’ blood test and found so many food-related deficiencies (sic),” Haredndra wrote. Express has found there is a problem in the potassium levels of a few players. It is learnt that a lot of mails have been sent by HI to SAI asking them to improve the standard of food at the canteen over the last few months.
On Monday, IOA chief Narinder Batra wrote to SAI requesting the body’s DG Neelam Kapur to take action. “I humbly request SAI to kindly take care of food quality, hygiene etc. If we expect elite athletes to perform at their best, then we also need to provide them with the best.” SAI’s regional director Shyam Sunder is working on eliminating the problem. “The food I have been informed is spicy and we are working towards sorting it out. It should be done soon.”