It’s 2:50pm… 10 minutes until kick off and while all the other lads are concentrating on the Gaffa’s team talk, I’m in a very different place.
This isn’t unusual though, as I’ve spent the last 17 years in a world of my own in those final moments before leaving the changing room for a game. Whilst the lads all concentrate on the manager’s set piece routines, the danger men in the opposition and those last minute words of motivation, that ring in your ears as you walk down the tunnel, I’m busy ensuring I’m just able to play.
Those last 10 minutes before kick off are probably more important than the first 10 minutes of the game for me. I have to ensure I’ve got my blood glucose levels right just so I can get out there. I’ll spend those minutes setting myself up to ensure I’ve got the best possible chance of giving a good account of myself out there, for those moments define whether or not I’ll be able to perform to my ability.
I’ll have done everything I can up to this point to give me a fighting chance, following numerous blood glucose checks throughout the warm up, swigs of Lucozade sport, crunching glucose tablets and even doses of insulin to optimise my levels prior to the game. However if they’re not right at 2:50pm, I know it could be a difficult afternoon.
Rooting through my bag to find my blood glucose monitor, whilst half listening to what’s going on around me, I’ll eventually stumble across my meter, test my levels and hope that they read somewhere between 5.6 and 10 mmols. If they do, I’m flying out of the changing room knowing that diabetes won’t be holding me back this afternoon. Outside of those parameters and we might be in trouble. This is when I’m off to inject myself in a “Lovely” & “Hygienic” non-league football ground toilet to deal with a high glucose level or I’m downing half a bottle of Lucozade sport as quickly as I can to respond to the lower blood glucose level.
I normally come back to the changing room following these last minute adjustments to see the Gaffa having finished his team talk and the lads all stood up ready to go. Luckily for me I trust my ability and understanding of the game enough to know that those last 10 minutes, whatever’s been said, I’ll have it covered. I have to believe that because I’m so preoccupied with just getting things right to get on the pitch!
Whilst the other lads have all prepared for their game, with little extra worry other than their position, their direct opponent and whether they’ve eaten enough energy gels to power up 5 men running a marathon, I’ve had to spend an hour and a half prior to the game on trial & error, adjustments and my best estimations of where my blood glucose levels will end up.
Warming up, pulling on the kit & getting out there is how most people envision football. For a diabetic player the preparation starts a long time before you get to the ground and continues with even more detail when you get there.
However when 3:00pm comes around and I’m free of the preparation it’s all worth it. Football is a way of life for me and no amount of added inconvenience and preparation from my medical condition will stop me playing.