The Gold Cup soccer tournament in Ontario has been an annual fixture in the calendar of the Ismaili community for many years. Teams from across Canada and even the United States practice for months before coming together to compete during two weekends each May.
Every year, teams of girls, boys, women, and men compete to be the best in their division. The 2016 tournament saw participation from more than 1 000 athletes — children as young as 6 to the young at heart at over 50. The athletes were supported by hundreds of volunteer coaches and organisers, and watched by thousands of spectators.
As one might expect, all this activity and excitement created huge appetites!
"To my understanding, it is the largest Ismaili soccer tournament in North America," says Ali Mulji-Poonawala, Vice Convenor for the 2016 Gold Cup and member of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Ontario, which runs the tournament. “It was really important to us to tackle having good, healthy food this year.”
To take on the challenge, Mulji-Poonawala and his team enlisted the Aga Khan Health Board and the professional volunteer team of dietitian-nutritionists behind TheIsmaili Nutrition Centre. The goal was to plan a menu of tasty, yet healthy and energising foods from which thousands of meals could be prepared.
Collaboration was key — the three teams drew inspiration from the spirit of collaboration amongst the soccer teams and tournament organisers, all of whom were working hard towards a successful Gold Cup.
“We had to consider allergies as well as the amount of sodium, fat, and incorporating different food groups,” says Mulji-Poonawala. “It was challenging to meet all the requirements, but I'm happy we did.”
Given that the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, it only seemed fitting that pulses be part of the menu! Players and spectators were treated to chicken skewers with rice, and nutritious pulses in the form of a bean salad.
Regarded a “superfood”, pulses are economical and full of nutrients. They include a variety of dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.
High in protein, fibre, various vitamins and minerals, pulses are also low in fat. Not only do they present an impressive nutrient profile with associated health benefits, they also play a key role in improving the sustainability of agriculture and have a positive impact on the environment.