Well… What a journey that was! I think it surpassed all of our expectations from a management, coaching and playing perspective and I couldn’t be prouder of how everyone equipped themselves with the whole experience.
With this blog I wanted to let the players share their thoughts on what DiaEuro meant to them and I’ll share mine in another post at a later date!
So over to some of the lads to tell you about it…
Tim Ward, our Goalkeeper and most improved player who played a pivotal role in our first win against Romania shares his thoughts:
“Christmas 2017, my wife is surfing social media and shows me a post by TDFC asking for players for the first ever UK type one Diabetic Futsal team. “Sounds brilliant, wish this had been around 20 years ago I’d be all over that”. My wife being my wife tells me to stop being negative (You’re 42 not 102) and sent my details to Chris Bright (I think she had half completed the form before I actually agreed to do it)!
To cut a long story short here I am eight months later saying (with a massive amount of pride and a massive smile on my face) that I was part of the first UK Futsal team to compete at DiaEuro. What a journey it has been and the 8 days we spent in Slovakia were an emotional rollercoaster. The highest high being our first win against Romania (previous champions).
What a feeling, what a moment in life. The team talks pre match, then the UK chant, followed by singing the national anthems (out of time haha) and definitely out of tune were moments I’ll never forget. Then there was the game itself, I was nervous but growing in confidence as the team began to put the Romanians under pressure, the goals, the shared joy, the celebrating. I was part of that. Let me just say that again so I can believe it, I was part of that. I am an International futsal player who’s played at a European Championships.
I have memories that money cannot buy. I have laughed until my jaw ached, I am (in a bad Italian accent) “Big Brother” to the Italian team and we sang Karaoke with the Portuguese team (Ai Se Eu Te Pego, have a listen to it as it’s the tune of the tournament). I have friends for life. I have pride and love for a group of people, who 8 months ago I did not know but through a shared condition, that has not stopped any one of us, it’s actually brought us together and given me an opportunity to represent my condition and my country.
I have lived the dream, cheers every one of you”
Make sure you check out this save from Tim to keep the score at 0-0 in our first win vs Romania… Incredible for a man who isn’t a regular goalkeeper!
Next up are the comments from our anchor and Manager’s player of the tournament, Zak Brown who played the most minutes of anyone from the UK team in the tournament:
“I break into a smile every time I think back to the DiaEuro experience with team UK. On the court and in preparation for the games, we did everything we could to succeed despite having the least futsal experience of the nations in our group. I was delighted to pick up two wins across the tournament and run some fantastic futsal players close in our first attempt.
Off the court, team spirits were kept high as we socialised as a group, talking about our common ground of football, managing diabetes and generally joking around with each other as any team on tour would do!
I am excited to see what the future brings with TDFC. One thing is for sure, the foundations have been laid. With more exposure to our growing community and more people on board to help, I hope for many more experiences like this in years to come!”
And lastly but by no means least, we have our captain, pivot and joint top goalscorer, Jon Tyrrell (JT) with his in depth perspective of the tournament:
“It was such an incredible tournament. To see so many top quality players from 17 different countries, all united around the same difference of having to live and play sport with diabetes was inspiring.
When I heard there was an all diabetic UK futsal team being put together I couldn’t believe it – futsal has been one of my biggest passions since I discovered the game on a football tour of Spain in 2007.
It was an honour to find out I’d be captaining the first UK team to enter the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes. We’d been drawn into a really tough group – many referred to as the group of death – with high-flyers Russia, Portugal and Italy.
Leading the team out alongside the Azzurri for our first game was really special, knowing you’re representing 4million people from the UK who live every day with diabetes.
It was to be only the second time a number of the guys had played futsal at all, and in front of a couple of hundred onlookers keen to see whether this UK futsal team would be the tournaments whipping boys. I think our nerves got the better of us a bit and we found ourselves 3-0 down at half time against a very strong Italy team featuring a couple of professional football and futsal players. But in the second half we came back strong, showing some grit to win the second half 2-1 and lose the game 4-2.
After an outstanding performance against Russia – holding them to 1-1 with only 5min to go – before eventually losing 2-1, we were taught a bit of a futsal lesson from Portugal who went on to beat us 6-1. That meant we were in the bottom half of the draw for places 9-17th and would face 2015 champions Romania in our next game – another really tough match.
The way we played against Romania was simply outstanding. To dictate the play and create the number of chances we did as well as looking strong at the back and keeping a clean sheet was something we were all so proud of. A brace from Brighty giving us a 2 goal lead to defend as Romania switched to the fly keeper.
Our 5th game against last year’s finalists Hungary ended up being our last game of the week. 0-0 at half time the game could have gone either way but a strong second half from Hungary and clever long ball play out from the back meant we were unpicked on a number of occasions. Another lesson to learn for next year, this time against a well worked 2-2 box formation.
From my perspective a massive thanks has to go to the coaching staff and players – to assemble and teach a futsal team to play against opposition of that calibre, from only a handful of training sessions demonstrates the ability of our coaches and players alike.
For me the main thing I’ll take from this week was the character from our players and staff. There was an incredible team spirit amongst us – everyone was learning fast and being thrown in at the deep end. I think we all had a lot of fun throughout the highs and lows you face during a tournament with 5-6 intense games in a week. Everyone contributed in their own way both on and off the court.
Our goalkeeper Tim deserves a special mention as some of the saves he pulled off – one in particular v Romania at 0-0 was quite outstanding for someone who’d not previously played as a futsal keeper before.
Also a massive thanks to the Slovakian hosts and everyone who helped put on this year’s DiaEuros. What a week! I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited to build on this for next year.”
JT also pulled together the below video of some of our on court action… (All of the goals except for the Italy game)
As well as the people who supported us in Slovakia we must also say a massive thank you to the people from the UK who supported us, shared our story and continue to back the work of The Diabetes Football Community as we wouldn’t be creating projects like this if it wasn’t for all of you!!!
We will continue to demonstrate that Diabetes is just another hurdle to jump, not a mountain to climb and that as a community, together we’re stronger!