Diabetes, Football and Me

It’s great to be able to share stories of our community and when we asked Zak if he’d like to write for the blog he was really keen… If you’d like to write something for us please get in touch! Anyway, over to Zak…

Hi, my name is Zak. I am 26 years old and a PE Teacher from Lancashire, England but currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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Football has always been a huge part of my life and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 14 did not change this one bit.

 

Despite my Dad’s initial fears that I may not be able to play football in the same way, we were reassured by the nurses at Blackburn Hospital that I could continue my number one hobby soon enough. Sure enough, after a few minor adjustments and some extra pre-game preparation, I lined up for my team just two weeks after diagnosis! I remember it so vividly, tucking into a couple of digestive biscuits at half time to keep my blood sugars up and cramping up towards the end of the game.

 

I know that many people have struggled to keep up their previous lifestyles after diagnosis, through fear of hypos/hypers or by misinformed advice, but it’s something that has never stopped me from doing anything I like… except for one thing – scuba diving.

 

I have tried to Scuba Dive twice in Thailand and Australia but not been accepted both times. Without a doctor’s letter of approval after taking private health exams via a registered “dive doctor”, unfortunately I had to stick to snorkeling. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences with scuba diving so please get in contact if you have a story or info worth sharing!

 

And despite the scuba setback, I have done kayaking, bungee jumps, overnight treks, 100km bike rides and many many more adventurous activities!

 

Having diabetes has its obvious challenges and hurdles we face day in, day out, but it has given me some great experiences that I will cherish for a long time to come…

 

I have been fortunate to represent Great Britain in the Junior Diabetes Cup held in Geneva, Switzerland. In my first year (2009), we won the tournament in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Slovakia. I was due to be the next penalty taker and I can’t describe the relief I felt at not having to take one! I went back again the next year and was nominated to be captain, which was an incredible honour. Despite finishing the top scorer in the tournament, we lost 1-0 in the final to Slovakia who got their sweet revenge (excuse the pun).

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Then in September 2016, I decided to move to Australia to give life a go “down under”. I have found a great football team here in Sydney and have represented Australia at the Mini Football World Cup in Tunisia, playing in front of a packed stadium of 3000 fans under the floodlights! I spent a bit of time pre-tournament learning the national anthem so that I didn’t have to mime awkwardly whilst on camera! I was also part of the UK’s first diabetic futsal team to play in DiaEuro 2018, which was an amazing experience both on and off the court. To meet so many other diabetics with a passion as big as mine for football was incredible, you can imagine how many stories were shared during that week!

 

A few adjustments have been made after moving to Australia, most notably with my prescriptions and dealing with heat of up to 40 degrees during summer! I have to pay for my diabetes supplies here, which makes me appreciate just how good the NHS is back home. Playing football in the heat took some trial and error too. My suncream is now just as important to pack as my insulin on a Saturday afternoon!

 

Two and a half years down the line and I’m still enjoying life here. I’ve met one other sporting diabetic superstar and her family in Sydney – my namesakes the Brown’s have been great at handling Ellen’s diabetes whilst she competes at the highest level of futsal in Australia at U17 and all age women’s level. I hope to meet and chat to a few other sporty diabetics in the near future, so if you’ve read this and want to add anything of your own then please step forward!

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G’day

Zak

If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown

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