A host of innovative methods are ensuring Liverpool's players fulfil their nutritional needs during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Reds are, of course, currently training individually with Premier League football suspended. However, just as is the case when they operate at Melwood, this activity still needs to be fuelled by the right food.
And, during an interview with Liverpoolfc.com, Mona Nemmer, the club’s head of nutrition, detailed how her department is supporting Jürgen Klopp’s squad while they work from home…
Firstly Mona, can you give us an overview of how you’re working and what it is you’re doing to help the players at the moment?
When this virus came up, from a logistical point of view you try to think ahead as much as you can and prepare things, so we kind of prepared for this eventual lockdown situation a little bit. Not that we wanted it to happen, but it’s important that you have enough food and stuff like that available so we reached out to the suppliers early enough to discuss opportunities and how they see the situation because we were all not familiar with this actual status at the moment. So we have tried to prepare ourselves a little bit in this direction, but when the actual lockdown started we had all been to training, all been to work, in the morning and then went home at 1 o’clock for an unforeseen amount of time.
Then we started to develop a creative and innovative solution which is adapted to the current situation, so we have started to install a kind of delivery system to avoid the need for the players to go out and so they can follow the government regulations as much as they can by staying at home. It’s not only from our perspective, it’s also all of our colleagues and it’s so nice to see how we are cooperating together, how we are all communicating together. For example, Andy Kornmayer and the fitness department delivered gym equipment to the houses of the players to extend the opportunities to still do exercise and workouts at home and we try to help from the food perspective.
Do you still have regular catch-ups with the players, as you would at Melwood?
Yeah, we have different ways to approach things. With regard to the delivery systems, the menu or recipe goes out over WhatsApp or any digital channel and the players are able to write down what they need if groceries are missing in the house. If players want to cook together it can empower them and their families to socialise, so food has a few meanings: on the one hand, it’s keeping them all happy with what they’re eating because you don’t want bad-tasting food, especially at a time like this! And on the other hand, we don’t know how long we will have to deal with this situation but obviously it’s a fact that it will not just stop and everything will go back to normal. It will be a big learning curve to return back to training and a normal training routine, so we try to help them to maintain their body composition and try to feed them food that is as nutritious as possible to support their immune systems because I think around this virus crisis, staying healthy is the main approach and we try to influence as much as we can around that.
So you are providing the players with menus and recipes for them to follow at home?
That’s right. We try to write ‘sensible’ menus, if that makes sense, because difficult times can afford unusual or innovative approaches. We try to adapt to the current food situation, so it’s not luxurious in this way and we try to keep it quite basic but still interesting and still very tasty and, of course, all of what they need because they are still working out and training. We have various situations – a few players are living alone, a few of them have their families with them, a few of them are living in an area where they can’t simply go to a supermarket to avoid any unnecessary contact, so that is how the system is working. We are trying to be very sensible and do really, really good organisation around food preparation to avoid any food waste and all these things.
Are you are still working as closely with other members of the Melwood staff as you would normally?
Oh yeah – honestly, that works really, really well. I miss the Melwood atmosphere, I miss the colleagues there and I was missing everything already after about two days! I think the current situation is even more challenging for us but I think as a team, how we have set up the communication structure around us, has connected us even closer in a way. Also, relying on certain types of communication tools I think changes your work routine because normally you’d go from office to office and it’s the ‘short communication’ way of making decisions, but I think we have found a really good way to connect and share things and update each other with what is happening in all the different departments in the club. Everyone is working together, trying to prepare information and advice for the players, trying to keep the messages really smart and I think it’s lovely to see how wonderful the resources are in the club and how we are working together and staying strong in these very difficult and unusual times.
Conall Murtagh, Andreas Kornmayer, Mona Nemmer, Tom King and Christopher Rohrbeck with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy
Are you using a variety of communication tools to stay in touch, like WhatsApp groups, phone calls, video calls etc?
I think we’re using all sorts of channels that are available to us! With conference calls, it’s just nice seeing a face and it changes the dynamic of a conversation. There are all kinds of communication tools around, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams and FaceTime calls, of course WhatsApp and also just normal text messages, that we are using. Also we are having a lot of phone calls which is really, really appreciated because I think it’s nicer to ask somebody ‘How are you?’ than to type it out. We are doing a lot.
Tom Maynard is doing a fantastic job with the Academy: being in touch with the players, doing online cooking sessions that are going to launch on our social media channels with recipes and tips on how to avoid food waste and what you can do with your leftover food, like dried bread and things like that. So we are trying to proceed in our daily routine to support and help the players as much as we can, we just try to be as creative as we can. We have wonderful people at Anfield who are declared as key workers, they are helping with the deliveries. It’s really nice. The one team is like the Melwood colleagues, but the support and the exchange and the cooperation with Anfield, with Paul Cuttill and Phil Egan’s team, is just unreal honestly. You never hear a ‘no’, it’s always possible, there’s always a way to make it happen and that is wonderful to see in such sad and difficult times. When you stick together you can really achieve so much more.
And just finally, have you ever faced anything like this before in your career, in terms of having to do your job remotely, or is this a new challenge for you?
Something like this has never happened before but in football, when I was working for the German national team, we played an U17 World Cup in Nigeria. It was a completely different scenario to now but you didn’t know which food order would arrive the next day, but it was nothing like this. But I think to cater for a big team, where you are normally travelling a lot all around the continent, a certain type of flexibility is simply needed and that’s what we are trying to use as an advantage at the moment to just make the best out of it.