The chief of the Singaporean contingent to the Southeast Asian Games has written to Filipino organizers to demand “urgent and immediate attention” over the lack of halal food options at the event, which led some of their team members to skip lunch.
Singapore team leader Juliana Seow sent a letter yesterday to the games’ organizers to lament that their football squad, composed of mostly Muslim members, have not been provided enough portions of halal food at the Century Park Hotel, where they’re staying. The variety of halal food was also limited, they said.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Seow said, “[A]t one dinner the halal options were just plain rice, pita bread, and brinjal lasagne. And with the other teams also requiring halal food, there just was not enough to go around.”
“We have made some adjustments by incorporating the energy food supplements we brought along into the players’ meals to ensure their physical conditioning is unaffected,” she added.
At one point, some officials from Team Singapore didn’t eat lunch because there just wasn’t enough food.
Even the coach of the Philippine women’s football team, Let Dimzon, was bothered by the below-average quality of the food being served to the athletes. She said in a press conference today that the “quality and quantity of food is not enough, even the variety. [L]ike for this morning it’s not enough that it is just rice and kikiam and egg; there are no nutrients.”
Kikiam is the local version of the Hokkien food heh gerng, a sausage composed of different meats and vegetables.
“This is embarrassing because I’ve been at different competitions [and] we haven’t experienced this kind of situation from other tournaments,” Dimzon said. “We are the host country and it’s a bit disorganized, so it feels bad for us.”
The coach of the Malaysian women’s football team, Joceph Jacob, also sounded displeased with what they were given to eat. “Today my breakfast, most of the players eat only bread and some egg. We have a big tournament; I hope they will improve the food,” he said.
But one well-known pro-government influencer, Krizette Chu, took to social media to insist that it’s not the Philippines’ problem that athletes are not being served good food during the lead-up to the games. In a Facebook post yesterday — which has since drawn copious amounts of flak — the Manila Bulletin writer said, “Our hosting for food and water is applicable DURING games.”
“Not before, not after, not during pre-competition games. If they arrive one week or a few days early before the official time begins, it is not our country’s job to feed everyone,” she added. “These countries have their own chefs de mission or sports commission who should be taking care of their own athletes.”
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who heads the games’ organizing committee, has apologized to athletes and officials for the string of embarrassing mistakes that his team has committed over the past few days, including transport and accommodation snafus. However, he told the local netizens clamoring for his head that they should desist from calling him out or risk embarrassing the Philippines.
So, do you think the organizing committee shouldn’t address the complaints made by the various teams? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.