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Analytical Coach Chris Ciriello shows the way by cooking up nutritious meal without exceeding SAI kitchen budget

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899   //    14 Jun 2018, 12:48 IST

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Chris Ciriello (in white) conducts a training session for the Indian team

Chris Ciriello has a lot more skills concealed in his armoury than the many potent varieties of drag flicks which he executed to perfection in his playing days. The Analytical Coach of the men's team - who perfected the knack of scoring off PCs almost at will (and chose big finals to score hattricks) - has Indian roots, and his grandfather Rudolph Pacheco played for India before moving Down Under.

The fearless defender was part of the Aussie team which won gold at the London Olympics in 2012, World Cup in 2014, Champions Trophy in 2012, and Commonwealth Games (2010 and 2014), and is currently seeking to imbibe the art of winning big matches in the Indian players.

Chris' culinary skills came to the fore last week when he played the role of Masterchef by assisting the losing team to cook for the winning team following a practice match at the SAI (Sports Authority of India) camp. Sportskeeda has learned that the fare he dished out was far superior in quality and variety to that provided by the SAI kitchen at Bangalore. What's more is that he kept a close eye on the food cost too - like a good Masterchef would - and ensured that his budget did not exceed the one stipulated by the SAI authorities.

On a more serious note, Chris Ciriello displayed what can be achieved with limited resources at a time when the Indian coach, Harendra Singh has expressed his anguish over the quality and quantity of food and the standards of hygiene in the SAI kitchen.

What's a day like for an Indian hockey player at SAI?

A typical day for the players begins at 7 in the morning with breakfast. This is followed by a practice session which can last between 2 to 2.5 hours. Meetings are then held with the players - which could be either group or individual sessions - followed by lunch. Further practice sessions may be scheduled in the evening as well, post which the boys also view clips from the field in order to analyze and improve performance.

Gym sessions for conditioning and agility training are conducted twice a week. The players send data each morning regarding details such as muscle soreness based on which the Scientific Advisors stipulate the workload for each individual. The methods are scientific and the training facilities are state of the art.

Recovery is a key element which professional sportspersons need to keep in mind, as fatigue and injury may prove detrimental to a player's progress. Adequate nutrition is an absolute necessity and international hockey players typically need a mix of lean proteins for muscle repair, carbohydrates to fuel energy, and vitamins which may be obtained from fruits, veggies, nuts, and dairy.

Meanwhile, The Indian girls are currently in Spain as part of a preparatory tour ahead of the World Cup next month and the men's team are preparing for the Champions Trophy in Breda, Holland, which starts on June 23.

Indian Men's Hockey team players celebrate after a goal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Indian Men's Hockey team players celebrate after a goal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

How does a typical menu look like at the SAI kitchen?

A typical menu looks as follows:

> Chicken Curry, Paneer Curry, Egg Burji, Boiled vegetables, Greens, Sprouts, Rice, Chappatis, and Curd

> Total daily budget per player (including milk and dry fruits): ₹ 850

> Total daily budget per player (excluding milk and dry fruits): ₹ 690

> Total daily budget for 48 players: ₹ 33,120 per day

The coaches have the luxury of an extra dry item on the plate such as fried chicken which the players do not. In spite of the budget amount being adequate, the fare dished out is poor in quality. Moreover, a source of red meat (such as mutton) which has been requested for by the Scientific Advisors has not been included in the menu.

What did Chris Ciriello and the boys cook?

The SAI allowance was ₹ 20,000 but the coach and his pupils spent less than half that amount to serve up a sumptuous fare that included the following:

> Two dry items using chicken breast: (Peri Peri Grill Chicken and Breadcrumb Fried Chicken)

> Pasta (Macaroni), Bruschetta, Fried Potatoes, Mushroom Fried Rice (with minimal oil), Boiled Vegetables, and Sauteed Paneer

The above menu quite clearly indicates that the budget is not a constraint. A tasty and nutritious meal with an adequate variety - so as to appeal to the taste-buds of players - can be dished up if indeed there is a will (and a bit of expertise as well).

However, for a start, the issue of hygiene needs to be addressed on a priority basis. The SAI hostels house the Indian players and several foreign and Indian coaches as well - all of whom, at the very least - deserve to be served food that is prepared and served in an environment that maintains health and prevents disease.

Among the coaches, Ciriello's counterpart in the girls' camp, Erik Wonink does a bit of cooking too. The others (including the Scientific Advisors of the men's and women's teams and the physio) have limited options - that include eating out - in case they wish to avoid the food at the SAI canteen.

The ones paying the maximum price for the lackadaisical attitude with regard to nutrition are the players of the Indian national team, and coach Harendra Singh has taken a monumental first step in an attempt to sort the longstanding impasse.

Below is a copy of the email composed by the Indian coach and addressed to the President of Hockey India.

"I would like to bring to your kind notice of Food quality at Bangalore SAI centre has been well below par with a professional unit. Excessive oil and fat throughout. Bone with lack of meats. Even same food consistently and cleanness. Some of the cases of players and staff, insect, bugs and hair were found in food. Sir, I also would to also like to inform you that hygiene part also been neglected." 

"Sir before CWG during our one of the camp Hon’ble Sports Minister visited the camps given instruction to competent that within 48 hrs these complain must be addressed. But in spite of Hon’ble Minister Saheb instruction, no change is visible." 

"The kitchen utensil which are used to prepare the food are unhealthy."

"Sir, we are preparing Senior Men’s for upcoming Champions trophy’s, Asian Games and World Cup. It is vital for these high-performance athletes to have all meal which consists of entire nutrition. Recently we conducted all 48 athletes blood test and many Athlete blood report are found so many food-related deficiencies which hindrance to them to perform optimum level."

"Therefore, I would like to inform you that kindly look into this matter and help us to get this problem fixed as soon as possible."

As per latest reports, SAI has assured action in this regard and promised that corrective action will soon follow.

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