The V-League match between Da Nang and hosts Song Lam Nghe An at Vinh Stadium last month was cancelled after every member of the visiting team came down with food poisoning and had to be hospitalised.
by Hoai Nam
The Da Nang starting line up was rushed to Cua Dong Hospital in Nghe An Province after dining at a restaurant in Le Thuy District, Quang Binh Province, 150km south of Vinh City.
Symptoms included acute diarrhoea and vomiting, which they experienced soon after arriving in Vinh city, where they were taken to Cua Dong Hospital.
Bui Xuan Hoa, the team's manager, said: "They [the starting line up] ordered pork, raw vegetables and shrimp paste, while the rest of the squad did not. It's the main reason they suffered from diarrhoea just a few hours later."
"We warned them not to eat these foods for lunch, but they went ahead. The other players and foreigners had well-cooked food and they were healthy that day."
"It's an experience for us and we will be careful about what our players eat during training and competitions."
Da Nang's experience has raised questions about nutrition. Team bosses however insist they closely monitor what their players eat.
"It was an unfortunate incident. Usually when we travel to play in Nghe An we tell the restaurant's chefs what to cook," Hoa said.
"That said, we can only be totally sure the food our players are eating is fresh when they play at home because our kitchen staff are under instructions to ensure the food they prepare is of the best quality. It is expensive and we only have a limited budget, but in the long run it's worthwhile."
"This food poisoning incident will not happen again. We will strictly monitor the quality of the food our players eat on a daily basis. And of course, we will not allow our team members to eat raw food anymore."
One of the team's key players, Nguyen Minh Phuong, said raw vegetables and shrimp paste were one of his favourite foods.
"We have had it before and we never got sick. This incident is very unfortunate because we had been preparing hard for this tough match [against Nghe An]. Of course, we will be wary of eating uncooked food again," Phuong said.
V-League sides insist they have nutritional experts on board to ensure players get a balanced diet.
"All 14 V-League teams have nutritional experts who are attached to the teams year-round. They even suggest foods that help players recover quickly after matches," said Duong Nghiep Chi, former director of the Viet Nam Sport Science Institute.
"Chefs now just cook pork, beef, seafood or vegetables. That is why players often lose their appetite and are not at the top of their fitness," Chi said.
He added that teams only had very limited budgets so they tended to focus on quantity rather than quality.
Phung Thanh Phuong, assistant coach for the national team, said most Vietnamese players did pay enough attention to their diet.
"I have followed the training of the national team since 2009. I have noticed that players try to eat too much rice. That is wrong because rice provides less energy than meat. They should eat more vegetables, fish and fruits, but not too much meat."
"Nutrition is a problem with every team in Viet Nam. Footballers generally come from the provinces and they ate badly when they were kids. And that takes its toll when they are adults, even if they have a better dietary regime," the former national striker said.
"They should know how much water they have to drink everyday. They often lose at least one or two litres of water every hour during hard training. It means they should drink during training and after that time. They have to drink water even when they do not feel thirsty," a doctor from the Viet Nam Sports Hospital said.
Footballers even drank beer or alcohol after games and training, a source said.
In Viet Nam, only young players at the Hoang Anh Gia Lai-Arsenal-JMG football centre have their diets strictly controlled.
The daily food menu is approved by the coach and team doctors.
"Each player has to drink two glasses of fresh milk and two cartons of yoghurt daily. It's a must menu at the centre. All players have to drink milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner," said vice director of the centre Tran Van Minh.
Head of the V-League organising committee Tran Duy Ly said: "The Da Nang team's experience is very serious. We had to postpone the game because of the carelessness of the team's managing board." — VNS