Legend has it that one of the first things Pep Guardiola did when he took charge of Manchester City was to ban pizza in the dressing room as a post-match snack. Fitness was Guardiola's primary priority and anything that sabotages it would not be permitted. Although, a stark contrast to that was when former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri made good on his promise to get the pizzas following Foxes' first clean sheet of the season – a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in his title-winning campaign.
Some teams which participated at the recently-concluded U-17 World Cup, however, seem to have no qualms digging into a slice or two of the humble pizza after a game. Brazil, Paraguay and Spain players were among those who enjoyed pizza right after a match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, which concluded on Saturday with England beating Spain 5-2.
For Brazil, who finished third behind champions England and runners-up Spain, enjoying pizza after each game was a routine of sorts. What's more interesting is that the Brazilian team travelled with a bulging 17-member support staff, which included chef Eduardo Rezende, the head of the delegation, Milton Dantas and a supervisor. "Hours before a game, players have a large meal so as to leave the body's energy stocks full and immediately after the games, they are offered pizzas and hydroelectrolytic repositories in addition to protein supplementation," Rezende said.
It was baffling to see Paulinho, Brenner and Wesley carrying pizza boxes to the team bus, while Alan wasn't shy of having a bite in front of the journalists near the mixed zone area after passing the German test in the quarter-finals in Kolkata. Spain players have also been seen chomping on pizzas while exiting the stadium after their matches. Watching a bunch of professional athletes eat so called unhealthy meals left many scratching their heads.
To look after adolescents participating in a World Cup requires attention to detail. From training sessions to sleeping and eating habits, Brazil had a plan in place beforehand, also keeping in mind India's scorching heat. "After all the activities were initiated, we focused on feeding and rehydration procedures in order to optimize the recovery of the athletes. In the locker room, we offered a small snack consisting of water, juices, isotonics, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits, which was followed by a dinner at the hotel," Rezende said. He added, "While in India, we took great care of athletes' hydration, as heat and high humidity in the air result in large water loss from players' bodies. A lecture was given to guide the athletes in relation to hydration care and we offered at all times plenty of water, juices and isotonic beverages."
The German players were also served schnitzel (a kind of meat) along with pizzas. "After every match, we had special food: pizza and schnitzel. And we always had dal just to try a typical Indian food," said Ronny Zimmerman, the German team's media manager. It has also come out that the Paraguayan players were also given a bar of chocolate and lollipops before each match.
England players, on the other hand, were given a variety of things like chicken and potato wedges. According to a member of the Local Organising Committee, "There was no proper dinner in any team's dressing room. Fruits and energy bars or energy drinks were common. Some teams, however, got their own food. Spain and Brazil got pizza, Ghana got sandwiches while Mali got cookies. Most teams kept it light immediately after the game and had their dinner at the hotel."
Meanwhile, teams like Japan and USA did not have any such specific food that are given to players after a match. "There isn't a specific food that is served to players after the match in the dressing room or at the hotel. Normally, they go back to the hotel and have their dinner," said a member of the Japanese delegation. The USA team's media manager Thomas Caughlin said, "a variety of foods were made available to the players – stuff that would definitely have lots of carbohydrate."
Teams like Brazil and Paraguay travelled to India with their own chefs and nutritionists. This served a dual purpose: prevent players from being affected by gastrointestinal issues and serving food that was similar to the one consumed back home. "Although the Indian cuisine is very rich, the athletes did not have much opportunity to try it, since food was prioritised close to what we have in Brazil. In addition, the menu was proposed by our nutritionist based on food similar to the Brazilians," Rezende said.
Interestingly, Rezende and the supervisor Raul Facchini arrived in the country a week ago to arrange everything. "The reason for having a chef is to ensure that food is produced in a manner similar to that made in Brazil, so that athletes can be assured of adequate food for their daily needs," he said. Rezende further stated that the Samba boys preferred having "rice, beans, chicken fingers and Farofa – a toasted cassava flour mixture served mainly in Brazil". The staff members couldn't get ingredients from their home country 'because of customs' but they managed to buy few things that were available in India.
With inputs from Amit Kamath
Updated Date: Oct 31, 2017 21:42 PM