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Palestine in World Cup 2026! Why not, says head nutritionist

The Palestine National Football team will be playing in the Asia Cup 2023 in Qatar.

Jerusalem24 -Yara Alnazer- “Why not consider the World Cup 2026? To get somewhere, you need to dream big.”

These were the words of Diala Shaheen, head nutritionist at the Palestinian Olympic Committee, and the Palestinian Football Association, emphasizing the potential of the Palestinian National Football Team.

The Palestine National Football team will be playing in the Asia Cup 2023 in Qatar, after qualifying the group’s stage and topping off their group.

Nutrition Plan

As the head nutritionist, Diala provides a customized nutrition plan for each athlete, including triathlon athletes, football players, swimmers, and more.

“Each one of the athletes has particular needs, the athletes themselves have their own preferences and needs, so you have to cater to that”.

The right nutrition, training, and environment allow athletes to reach their fullest potential.

Diala says that the daily nutrition of athletes differs from one another. Athletes need to get enough carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and more calories than a normal person.

“It [nutrition] has to be specific to cater to their training and match schedules, allowing them to reach their full potential.”

In addition to considering each athlete’s needs and preferences, Diala also considers local cuisine and produce. “It’s about highlighting specific dishes or specific nutrients that can be very local, very traditional, but people are not necessarily aware of how nutritious they are” she explains. Diala uses Palestinian cuisine and recreates recipes to make them athlete-friendly.

She also works on finding alternatives to sugary foods, such as soda and energy drinks. In addition to working with the parents of the athletes to ensure that her nutrition plan is being implemented.

“It is about the quality and the balance”

When it comes to the latest technologies and latest products, in Palestine there are some limitations, Dalia confirms. However, Diala looks away from the challenges and motivates the athletes to implement the right plan with what is available.

“I think at this point, we are lucky to have what we have. When it comes to nutrition, it is not about the latest technologies and the latest products, it is more about the quality and the balance.”

What did Ronaldo get out of his pants?

A video circulated on social media last month, showed Cristiano Ronaldo pulling something out of his shorts and eating it.

We asked Diala about the viral video, and what might Ronaldo chewed. Diala speculates that this could be caffeine gum.

“Caffeine is one of those very effective supplements for football players, and if it’s a long match, he probably needed to top it off”. Adding that Ronaldo “is very specific with his numbers, so he was probably told to have it at that specific moment.”

Caffeine is one of the risk-free supplements that athletes are allowed to consume. Part of her job with the Palestinian Anti-Doping Committee is to ensure that the athletes are not consuming risky supplements which could amount to doping.

“Once a supplement is chosen to be given to an athlete, it goes under testing and analysis, and a cost-benefit analysis,” she says.

However, Diala refrains from recommending supplements and uses a “food first approach” with the athletes, where she gives athletes what they need from food sources.

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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