Guess what, it’s been a weird 18 months hasn’t it, but as the restrictions end and some form of normality returns it was great to get the message from TDFC HQ that the futsal sessions are back on and a couple of summer meet ups are in the diary. Get in!!
As many us will know (especially if you’re a parent or carer) you must wear different heads daily, nurse, best friend, coach, Darth Vader. All of which had to been worn in increasingly difficult lockdown circumstances. Having worn all of these (including the new Key stage 2 teacher head) I was driving down to Worcester for the session thinking I haven’t worn the futsal keeper/skipper one for over two years.
A light bulb moment that almost felt like imposter syndrome, as if I was stepping into someone else’s shoes. I’d felt a little like this going to the first ever meet up back in 2018 when I felt like the old guy who had come for the dads v lads’ game. Believe me that feeling disappeared almost instantly in 2018 and the same in 2021.
The reason why, it’s easy, it is the people. The strength and support of community is powerful. Something you don’t (or I didn’t at least) realise until you’re involved, meeting and listening to others, simply having a chat, a laugh or empathising with the issues they are encountering. The WhatsApp group that all who join TDFC are invited to has been fantastic in keeping in touch with everyone but meeting up with some old and new faces, getting the boots on and simply having a game, that is a life saver.
I have family down in Worcester, so we decided to make a day of the first session and catch up, so the Ward clan turned up on mass at Worcester FA HQ.
The meet up followed the usual routine the hello’s, how are you doing, nice to meet you, take the mickey out of each other and have a laugh (mostly at my lockdown barnet), yes Tob’s I know the barbers are open now but I’m going full Zlatan! 😊
There were loads of new faces and although I didn’t get to chat with everyone it was great to meet you all, apart from Bryn who megged me 3 times, you mate, can stay in Aberystwyth next session!
The presentation and discussion with Chris and Jon that opened the session was a real eye opener with the differing level of access to diabetic support across the country, be that physiological support, CGMs, pumps, and dietary & lifestyle advice offered was frighteningly varied, far from consistent and really not great to see. The tireless work Partha Kar and others are doing to remedy this is vital for people with type 1 across the country.
A special shout out to Mo Ismail, who has been an absolute legend throughout the pandemic and well ever since I’ve met him. His advice and guidance (he’s a qualified Pharmacist and T1D brother working in the NHS) on all the questions posted in the group has been a real source of inspiration and support and the recognition he received during the session is well deserved! Well done and thank you pal from us all.
After the presentation and discussion, it was down to the pitch for the futsal, but first media duties for me and Mo discussing the project with Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire, who have provided us with some great support to get back on our feet. It was great to chat about TDFC and the return to playing and training.
The training was great as usual (apart from the megs) and it’s always nice to learn as well as get chatting to Tom about Goalkeeping and his master’s Studies in the USA too!
I coach academy and grassroots football, so I am on a pitch most days of the week but being out there playing and being coached is such a release, you don’t know how much you miss it.
A nice end to the day was having my picture taken by Chris from Reaction Photography of me with Brighty and my boys all of us in TDFC kit, I think they are expecting to be on the flight to Bosnia now for the next DiaEuro.
It was great to be back to see some old and dear friends and make some new ones. I can’t wait to catch up with the rest of the lads and keep meeting new people within TDFC.
In a thousand different ways the day was a real family affair.
It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to write this, but…….. WE ARE BACK! This weekend coming, we will be resuming our Men’s Diabetes Futsal sessions at the Worcestershire FA headquarters after a gap of 15 months due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
It’s been a tough break for us all. We know so many of the group took a lot from the sessions in the past and we’re hoping to bring back all of that positivity, engagement and support to our upcoming sessions. We know there’s a lot of excitement amongst the ranks from existing and new players to the project so we can’t wait to get back out there!
We will be starting back on the 27th of June with another session planned in for the 25th of July as well so if you want to get involved please do get in touch!
For us these sessions will be about re-engaging with our community, getting our squad back together to play as well as welcoming new faces to the pitch. We should have a good laugh and a lot of fun which is what it’s all about.
We must also say a big thank you to The Tackling Inequalities fund created by Sport England and put into practice by Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire. They’ve supported us with funding and support to help get us back off the ground after what has been a really challenging period during the pandemic.
It’s going to be a really exciting month for us as the sessions get back underway whilst we also continue to grow the women’s arm of the Diabetes Futsal squads…. However, ahead of this first session we thought we’d invite one of the newest members of the community, who will be attending his first session this weekend, to describe how he’s feeling ahead of Sunday…. Over to you Bryn:
“I’m really excited to be finally meeting up with the lads from TDFC. Ever since I watched Chris’ story I just knew it was something I would love to be Involved in. So to be invited to training with them is really special.
I was so inspired by the work of TDFC I even held an active fundraiser for the charity through my sports coaching business ‘BMO Coaching’ – we managed to raise £377.50 for TDFC and £900 in total, which we shared with other local charities.
Living in the Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth, I have only met a total of two T1D players that are still playing senior football so It’s going to be a fantastic experience playing / meeting with other T1 diabetics in a football environment.
I’m passionate about raising awareness and passing on knowledge about diabetes, especially throughout my area of Wales. I’ve been playing football with T1D for 20 years and I’m keen to show people that it doesn’t stop me from playing sport and doing the things I love.
The lads have been really welcoming on the group chat so I’m looking forward to a session with them to break the ice. “
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bryn and isn’t it great to be back!
We’ve had some incredible things going on within the TDFC family during 2019 and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved together.
For the last couple of years I’ve written a blog to try and summarise the progress that we’ve made during the previous year because as much as I firmly believe in focusing on the present, to ensure we don’t stand still, it’s also important to celebrate and remind ourselves of the successes along the way.
Firstly, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helps to make this community what it is. Those who’ve stepped forward to lead on particular projects and areas which needed support I’ll never be able to thank you enough. You know who you are and I hope you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take our community to the next level. We don’t stop there though…. 2020 has so many exciting ideas that we need our current team and others to step forward to make it happen.
Before I start recapping, I’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors Dexcom, Lift, JL property solutions ltd and our close partner the University of Worcester. Without your support none of what we’ve done in 2019 would’ve been possible. Thank you for everything and I hope we can continue what we’ve started as we enter 2020 and the next decade.
Now, I’ll try and talk about some of the big moments in order of how they happened throughout 2019….
So, to kick it off we had the beginnings of TDFC London. It is our affiliated project that takes the ethos & ideology of what TDFC is all about and localises it to the area of London. Having come up with the idea for this alongside Bryn during DiaEuro 2018 it was amazing to get this off the ground in February 2019. This was the first ever all type 1 futsal or football team to take part in a mainstream Futsal league when we entered the London Futsal League in May 2019. An amazing statement which I know the boys are extremely proud of. It was a special moment seeing the lads take on this enormous challenge. I was just delighted I could be a part of 2 of the 3 wins TDFC London picked up in their first season! The first time I was involved in a win was momentous, not only because of the statement it makes, but because we did it against another disability team. We played against a deaf team, which was another bit of history, having our 2 teams battle it out in a mainstream futsal league. It’s been a fantastic start for this project and as the numbers of people interested continues to grow it’s looking like a really exciting 2020. We must thank Havas Lynx for their support for the team in 2019 as we got the team off the ground. Make sure you visit our “Find Your Local Community” page if you’re interested in what they’re up to.
Alongside delivering our own projects we try our best to network at some of the diabetes events and projects across the country. We’ve grown the awareness of our community by attending these events and in 2019 we tried to ensure that we continue to reach further and engage with members of the community interested in our journey. Having our stand at Talking About Diabetes (TAD), the rise of the machines 2 (RoTM 2) and EXTOD (Exercise for Type One Diabetes) allowed us to do just that. It’s always amazing to get a feel for what’s going on in the community that supports us. We’ve been lucky enough to exhibit and share at conferences like these for the last 2 years and we’re very grateful for every chance we get to do this.
With the unique nature of some of the work we’ve had the pleasure of creating, we’ve also had more interest than ever in coming to take a look at what we’ve been up to in 2019. This has led to some amazing awareness for The Diabetes Football Community which we’ve all been incredibly proud of. I just want to mention a few which I think have captured the reason we exist, been seen by most people and have probably resonated furthest with the community.
When we spoke with Jonny Labey in the early part of 2019, it was a chance to show him what we were up to for his new Know Your Type vlog. So, we invited him along to one of our UK Diabetes Futsal Training days. Jonny is a former Eastenders actor, West End performer and was recently on The X Factor Celebrity series but the most important thing is obviously that he lives with type 1 diabetes too. We didn’t just get him in to film what we were up to and interview myself and the team, we had him playing as well!!! Jonny was top class on the day and got stuck into the friendly match we had planned. You can see the feature Jonny created on the below link:
Then as we headed towards our big summer project, which aims to inspire and raise awareness of our condition we had another bit of great news in showcasing our work. So as our UK male Diabetes Futsal squad were preparing for Kiev, Ukraine and a week away at the DiaEuros (European Futsal Championship for people with diabetes, www.diaeuro.org), the local BBC Midlands Today team got in touch to come and feature the squad’s final training session. It was our first exposure on the Television…. I was made up for our project and all of the team involved. Showcasing what people with Diabetes can do in the form of our Futsal team goes some way to disproving many of the stereotypes and stigma which surrounds the word Diabetes, so to have our story shared to a mainstream audience on this scale was incredible. If you want to check it out look on the below link:
Also, during the final days of build-up to DiaEuro we had the honour of having 2 England Cricket Legends announcing our squad for us… Again another fantastic piece of awareness for TDFC during the Cricket World Cup 2019. I know some of the lads were big cricket fans so to have these guys read out their names to represent the UK’s All Diabetes Futsal team was a huge honour for them before they’d even kicked a ball. A huge thank you to Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson (And Tim Peach for organising it!) for doing this for the team and the project, it means a lot and will be something we all look back upon with our smile on our faces…. check it out below:
Then of course there was the experience of the tournament itself…. What a spectacle it is for diabetes. I wish more could be made of the journey, the teams and the showcase for the condition. It’s a special opportunity to represent your country and your condition…. One which I’ve had the pleasure of doing on 2 occasions now and with this team I hope I’ll be able to continue to do so in whatever capacity that is for a good while to come…. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play forever!!!! I won’t talk too much about it as I wrote down my thoughts on the below blog post, but it’s without doubt one of the biggest highlights of 2019:
As we arrived home from the championships, I knew something pretty big was also on the horizon but I was sworn to secrecy for at least 2/3 months prior to it happening…. A big moment for me, a big moment for TDFC but an even bigger moment for type 1 diabetes in sport & physical activity. Sport England in combination with the Richmond Group of charities had decided to create a national campaign to attempt to increase the numbers of people exercising whilst living with chronic health conditions. The #WeAreUndefeatable campaign is the first time in my lifetime I’ve seen a concerted effort to promote people living with health conditions into physical activity (Also the first time I’d seen anyone injecting insulin on TV!). For someone who’s always shared a love of exercise with my chronic health condition, this has been an incredibly long time in coming, but I’m so pleased that the emphasis is there and it’s had a national spotlight. I was obviously incredibly honoured to have been featured in the campaign, to represent Type 1 Diabetes, but for me it’s just another chance to change perceptions, stereotypes and the stigma I’ve faced in sport since the day I was diagnosed. My story embedded within the campaign is just a strand in the fabric of the overall picture of what’s happening. The winds of change are blowing and I believe our work is certainly contributing…. Thank you to all of the #WeAreUndefeatable team for doing such an amazing job with the campaign and my story. I do find it tough to watch… Talking about the pain I felt as a kid gets me every time but this creates the power within the message. My condition hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my sport and nor should it. I hope this comes across. If you want to check out the TV advert you can find it on the below link:
Alongside our own pride in the work we do it’s also been amazing to receive our first award/accolade during 2019… It’s never something you set out to do when you begin a journey within a project like ours but nevertheless it’s incredibly humbling to receive an award in recognition of the hard work the project has put in. Earlier this year we received the Grassroots Project of The Year from the Worcestershire FA in acknowledgement of the impact we’re having across the county for Diabetes in Football. A list of the County’s award winners for 2019 can be found on the below link:
Then finally, we had the incredible #SporT1Day 2019 conference held at the University of Worcester. Another massive highlight in the year as we work alongside 1BloodyDrop to create the only conference focussed on type 1 diabetes in sport and exercise, created by people living with the condition. It’s proven to be a huge success with many of the diabetes community and we can’t wait to see where this ends up. It was a fitting way to celebrate World Diabetes Day 2019 and a fitting way to finish up our major projects for the year. If you want to read up on what happened at the conference head to the below link:
As with anything in life, as much as I want to ensure we don’t forget the incredible things we’ve done I’m also conscious we need to look at the things to come…
On the horizon for 2020 are a number of new ideas and projects to compliment our existing ones. We’re in the midst of starting up our Women’s Diabetes Futsal project led by Katie McLean which will look to mirror our successful Men’s project. We will be finally getting to our Kid’s sessions in partnership with the Worcestershire FA after securing a slot on their new 3G astro turf facility in 2020, as well as looking at a project that moves around the country in combination with the growth of our local community hubs. It’s an exciting time to see where the next turn on this journey of ours takes us.
An incredible 2019 which took TDFC up a notch, and with the help of everyone involved in our wonderful project, we hope to go up another level in 2020. Please keep sharing, liking, retweeting, tweeting, commenting on our work and helping in any way you can, it all helps. If you’d like to get involved in what we’re up to we’d love to hear from you so please make sure you send us an email if you feel like that’s you.
It’s an honour and privilege to be leading TDFC into 2020. Single handedly the best decision I ever made was creating this project and it means the world to have so many people sharing the journey.
It’s something pretty special…. The opportunity to represent your country and your condition. DiaEuro or the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes is into its 7thconsecutive year of competition and through this wonderful tournament we are given a unique chance to live out every kid’s dream, to play for your country.
But this tournament isn’t just about winning every game (yes it’s important to us all!) as there’s more than that at stake. Each team uses the tournament as a chance to make as much noise and raise as much awareness as they can, to really showcase what people with this condition can do. When you often see misconceptions and irregularities in the way people talk about Diabetes in the media and society it’s so nice to see us all come together to talk about a European event which brings positivity and enthusiasm to the word Diabetes.
As you can see from the titles I have for our team, I’m doing a bit of everything to make the UK team happen but I wouldn’t change it. I’ve enjoyed each one of those roles but it does make it very challenging to do them all very well! Each one brings their own pressures but for the most part I try to take it all in my own stride and ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible. I would hope the team would say that we do a good job with it but you’d have to ask them haha.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that 18 months ago this was all a dream and here we are talking about participating in our second tournament. This project and community has changed my life and the lives of many people whom are participating every day in our activities on social media or the projects we run physically. This team has been a huge source of inspiration for our community and a place to turn for information & support for the lads living with type 1 diabetes lucky enough to be involved. This was demonstrated by the amazing local TV coverage we received regarding our participation at the tournament. Seeing our project receive this media attention is great for its continuation but most importantly for reaching others who may not have heard of the work we do and who could really benefit from it… The reason we’re here is to support others with our condition and raise greater awareness of Diabetes in a positive light. To be featured in this way is not the goal we set out for but a bi-product of the hard work we put in to help the diabetes community out there. (TV feature below)
Back to the tournament itself though… To be completely honest after the months of work building up to it, I was just so happy when we got to the accommodation in Ukraine and the rooms were all sorted out! As the man responsible for getting the squad & staff there that was the biggest relief. The stress of booking flights, speaking with the organisers, sorting out the transport & the tournament schedule, organising our players & itinerary to get there as well as all of the finances is a huge strain. I think next year I’d like to find some more help for this because it consumed my life for weeks beforehand. But crucially we got there without much of a hitch or issue!
For much of our preparation for the tournament I’d played more of a coaching/managerial role alongside Harley to help us tactically & technically prepare. It was myself and Harley who picked the final squad, worked through the playing style & finalised our matchday approaches. However, we felt that in spite of this I’d need to contribute on the court again this year rather than from the sidelines. So with that being said and a last minute continuation of an injury to our main pivot JT, I handed over my coaching hat to Harley & JT for DiaEuro 2019. Concentrating on just playing wasn’t without it’s drama though…. I actually pulled up in a training session for my football club 10 days out from the tournament, which actually meant I had to sit out of our final training session before heading to the Ukraine….. Not ideal at all. I spent the whole week leading up to the tournament unable to train and unable to even run. I actually ran properly for the first time after pulling up, just 2 days before the tournament and it felt just about ok… I had my fingers crossed I’d be alright for the first game on the Monday. Whatever happened with my injury though, I was determined to ensure that from an overall perspective the tournament was going to be a positive experience.
Once the games arrived on Monday, after a day of settling in and reviewing our tactics, we went into them optimistic we could really give a good account of ourselves. I felt for the most part we did just that! Our group draw was really tough, we faced last year’s champions Bosnia, Portugal (tipped to do well!), Slovakia (Finished 4ththe previous year) and Ireland who came into their first tournament. WHAT A GROUP. We were all so excited about the prospect of pitting our wits against the very best and having the chance to play a local derby with our friends in Ireland (which I think could be a more regular thing too 😉 )!
Our first fixture was against my very good friends from the Portuguese team. I can’t say enough positive things about these guys. They helped me shape the project we now have for our UK team and I’ll forever remember that. In 2017 I flew over to Portugal with Karl & Noel, to further the TDFC cause and they let us in to train and see their development. It was a special trip and Bruno, Joao and all of the boys have become great friends of ours and in both DiaEuro tournaments we’ve been involved in we’ve been drawn against them. I think it’s fitting with our connection. Unfortunately, they beat us 6-1 last year and in this year’s game it was 5-1 but as the scoreline suggests we made a better game of it and if anything it was a little harsh the margin. They have some very talented players and their technical & tactical knowledge supersedes ours by a distance but we’re catching up. We have a talented group who demonstrated throughout this year’s tournament, despite the results, that we’ve made strides forward on the court. Nevertheless, it was a tough opening defeat but we knew we had to pick ourselves up from it quickly because the day after we had 2 games. From a personal playing perspective, I had my injury playing on my mind which meant I didn’t perform at my usual level, but I knew that and just needed to build my confidence up in it to push myself the following day. It was great to see from a coach’s perspective the lads employing tactics and techniques we’d worked on all year and something we certainly continued to show throughout.
As Day 2 arrived, I’d had an awful night’s sleep ( 3 hours roughly!) tossing and turning thinking about the day before and the day to come. But we had two games to play and I needed to get over it….. I picked myself up and went all out with the positive mindset. I was up and focussed from the off to get my mindset right to tackle those games. With the organiser’s and coaching cap taken off me by Rosie, Harley & JT I certainly felt a bit of a weight off my shoulders following a staff discussion the night before. I think it showed as we played our first fixture of the day vs Slovakia. I went into it with more confidence, having tested the injury out and having had Milly put me through some rehab/stretching too. We knew that today was the important one for performances and results as on the final day of group fixtures we’d be facing the reigning champions with a really tough task to get any kind of result. We knew it and in that first game we played like it…. We came out of the blocks firing. We threw the kitchen sink and more at Slovakia and somehow they stood firm. To this day, I still can’t quite believe that we didn’t get a result from this game (watch the highlights and you’ll also see why!). The lads were fantastic… The whole squad played to the levels we needed and the ball just didn’t quite go in the goal for us. There’s an argument we could have been more clinical but the luck just wasn’t with us and we lost 1-0. We were gutted but encouraged all at the same time. We’d just completely outplayed a team that had finished 4that DiaEuro 2018. So as much as we were disappointed with the result we’d shown to everyone what a thoroughly decent side we were.
But after 2 games we still hadn’t got any points on the board so as much as we were satisfied with our performances, we were desperate to get off the mark. No easy task though as up next was the local derby with our friends in Ireland. For me the Irish and Portuguese teams will always have a special connection with me. Portugal inspired us into the DiaEuro family and I like to think a trip that myself and Zak Brown went on to the Diabetes Ireland Junior Cup in August 2018, where we met Cathal (Ireland Team Manager), inspired their creation & participation at DiaEuro 2019. So for me it was a special moment for our teams to face each other.
I knew they’d recruited well with several players who’d played at a good level of Football in Ireland so we knew it was going to be a tough game. It turned out to be exactly as I’d imagined. They sat in and frustrated us as we dominated the ball. However, they looked dangerous on the counter attack. It made for quite an exciting game for the neutral but my overall feeling was that just like the Slovakia game the ball didn’t want to go in the net for us. A game full of commitment and passion ended in a 1-1 draw. We just couldn’t convert our dominance of the ball into goals and it’s where we struggled against Slovakia as well. We missed one of our star men from DiaEuro 2018 JT, who’s goals we could’ve really used this year. He’s a natural finisher in front of goal, it’s a simple as that. But, that being said I felt that we showed to everyone the strides forward we’d made as individuals and collectively. I was proud of how we’d conducted ourselves in game 2 and 3 and had it been another day we’d have won both games, but it wasn’t to be.
This left us with a mammoth task of needing a result against the reigning champions Bosnia to have a chance of staying in the competition. With our legs in absolute pieces from 3 games in 2 days we knew it was going to be a tough task. Within 5 minutes we were 3-0 down and it was every bit of the challenge we thought it would be! We gave it all we had but came up short losing the game 11-3. As we all predicted Bosnia then went onto win the tournament. The ability they have throughout the squad is frightening for an all type 1 team. One of the best teams I’ve faced collectively and individually and a huge congratulations to them for defending the title and really showcasing the levels you can achieve despite living with type 1 diabetes.
From our perspective going out of the tournament on goal difference at the first stage was frustrating and disappointing especially with the distance we travelled and money we’d spent to get there. We’d given it our best shot and at another tournament the ball would’ve gone in and we could’ve finished 5th/6th/7thbut it wasn’t to be. However, the strides forward off the court, within our coaching team, our tactical knowledge and overall approach was really pleasing. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved. I’m honoured to know each and every single one of the players and staff. Their commitment to TDFC and our vision is impeccable, and I’ll never be able to thank them enough for all that they’re doing to help push this cause to the next level.
But what can you say about trying to manage your glucose levels with 4 futsal games in 48 hours….. Reactive, guesswork and without a CGM like the Dexcom G6 I think it would be an extremely difficult challenge. I felt as though I prepared as best as I could but for me the key was always have the ability to adjust. I was always carrying Lift Glucose tabs around with me as well as my insulin pen to ensure I was able to react to any levels which were falling out of range. I mean how do you prepare for something you’ve never done before? 4 games in 48 hours is not something you’re likely to experience so I just focussed on eating well, consuming lots of carbs & protein for recovery and trying to minimise the amount of short acting insulin there was in my system for games (unless I required an adjustment!). We all did it and for the most part managed it quite well. It was quite a testing environment to have type 1 but the understanding amongst our squad and management is there to ensure we’re all comfortable in shouting up if we don’t feel right. It was a challenge that we all adapted to but one that was made easier than it could’ve been by the use of a continuous glucose monitor.
As anyone who knows me or has heard me talk about DiaEuro before, I will always say that it is much much more than just a Futsal tournament for people with Diabetes. It forges bonds and friendships with people across Europe who share the same challenge. We come together to demonstrate what people with the condition can do through the medium of Futsal. It’s a unique experience which has us travelling to destinations all over Europe to experience different cultures and ways of managing the condition as well as playing the sport. It’s a tournament and message I believe strongly in…. I hope that in the future we can continue to develop it as a product and receive greater recognition & awareness of it. It was fitting that the final ceremony was conducted at the Olympic stadium and Ukrainian TV were there to film it. For me this tournament deserves that, the talent, commitment and statement that this tournament makes is epic… I just wish we could see our condition represented like this more regularly and through other sports too!
For me, another tournament and another step forward. Results may not have shown that but with the project, coaching and players there was every reason to come away from Ukraine full of optimism. I take great pride in representing my country and condition. For me it’s a special feeling which is hard to explain but one I hope I can continue to do on and off the court for many years to come.
Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to the players, Harley, JT, Milly and Rosie for all of their hard work and commitment in Ukraine. Without your efforts the experience wouldn’t have been what it was so thank you again for all that you do…. Whilst we must also say a big thank you to our sponsors Dexcom, Lift & JL Property Solutions who’s support we couldn’t have done without. Thank you so much for everything you did to help us get there!
And with my final words of this post I just want to look ahead to the 2 exciting projects still to come in 2019….
We have our children’s participation event and sessions based from the new Worcestershire FA HQ launching in autumn/ winter 2019, where we will for the first time encourage active participation in Football for children with type 1 diabetes, with support from adults and coaches fully aware of how to manage the condition. Hopefully an exciting step change for our community and if you want to register your interest in what’s ahead head to the below survey monkey:
Whilst we also have the #SporT1Day conference on the 17thof November at the University of Worcester to come. A number of talented and inspiring individuals living with type 1 diabetes sharing their experiences and management techniques for their sports whilst managing the condition they live with. A fascinating insight and learning environment for anyone looking to expand their knowledge, further their exercise and sporting goals or even just get started. A wonderful day and you can find more info on the below link:
It’s strange being asked to put down in words what my experience was like in Kiev. When Chris Bright asked me initially to say a few words for the TDFC website I said yes immediately, “that’s grand, no problem”. But fast forward a week and I still haven’t written anything down yet (sorry Chris).
So here we go……
I heard about trials taking place for the first ever Irish Diabetic football team in November 2018. My manager from my 11 a side team made me aware of it and said I should go for it. My initial reaction was to say no. At the ripe old age of 34, my dreams of pulling on a green jersey and representing my country were just that….. dreams. I don’t know what changed my mind but I decided to head up one night and check it out.
Driving home after that first session I thought to myself, ‘My god, Futsal is NOT like football at all’. But I loved it.
We met up and trained once a month after that. I would’ve loved to have trained every week but it just wasn’t a viable option. People were making huge sacrifices to make it even once a month, coming from all over the country to be there.
There was so much work to be done and literally no time to do it. All of the players had played football at some level, but I don’t think anybody had played Futsal before. The differences in both games are huge. It’s essentially like playing basketball with your feet. Trying to get used to Futsal as a team was very challenging and we suffered big time when playing friendly matches against experienced Futsal teams.
My respect and thanks have to go out to Alban our coach, because he had the patience of a saint. I’m sure he had thoughts of strangling one or two of us at times (not naming names).
The final squad was announced a couple of months before the tournament. I was buzzing to be apart of it all but to be honest it didn’t seem real to me at that stage.
Because the team wasn’t recognised by the FAI or Sport Ireland, we had to do all of the fundraising ourselves to get to Kiev. This was something I hated having to do as it meant broadcasting it all over social media and I didn’t like having to go on Facebook with the cap in hand, and ask for donations.
To be fair, the response we got was nothing short of incredible. I was overwhelmed by it. I expected people to throw maybe a fiver or a tenner my way. But we had loads of donations of €50s, €100s etc. A guy I went to college with who I hadn’t seen in 10 years, donated €100. Absolute madness. I mailed him straight away to thank him and said it was too much. He mentioned to me that he had cousins who were recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and he knew it was hard. So a massive thank you to all who donated to us.
Looking back, it was strange during our training sessions because we never really mentioned that we were all diabetic. Any conversations about insulin or hypos or Libres were brief and short. Because our time together was so limited, it was all about the football, or all about the Futsal I should say. Towards the end we had a running joke where we wondered if we were even diabetic.
That all changed once we set off for Ukraine. When we met at Dublin airport in our Ireland tracksuits, it finally hit home and it felt real. We were going to the EUROS!!!
I had never been in an environment before where diabetes was openly discussed by everybody in the room. Bloods were checked, insulin injected, pumps were being used. It was an experience to say the least. Everybody followed the same general guidelines and principles of what should be done being a diabetic, but each person had their own little way of doing things. There was no definitive right way or wrong way to do it.
I bombarded the lads with question after question, and we swapped loads of stories of how diabetes has affected our day-to-day lives. One of my favourite topics was discussing favourite foods to treat a hypo, and I got some weird responses in return.
It was refreshing to see everybody so open about it, and honestly it was the first time since I was diagnosed 4 years ago where I actually felt normal.
Kiev was brilliant. I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life ever. Our free time consisted of walking to supermarkets looking for food, and winding each other up. The two lads I roomed with, Mark and Aidan, were straight up mental cases. Although we’d essentially just met, I felt like I’d known them for years and nobody got a free pass when it came to being made fun of. It was brilliant.
Each night at 11pm, everybody would come down to Room 36, gather around one mobile phone to watch a dodgy stream of Love Island and drink cups of tea. Looking back it was all very romantic.
The tournament itself was just special. I was asked by Alban to captain the team and I was bursting with pride to lead the lads out. Hearing Amhran na Bhfiann belting out before each game was a memory I will never ever forget.
Our first game was against the reigning champions Bosnia. An excellent team with tons of experience. It finished 3-0 but we were happy with our performance and we gave a good account of ourselves after a nervous start. The next morning we faced Portugal, a very skilful and tricky team. We scored first and played really well throughout. Ultimately their class shone through in a 6-2 win, but we did have chances.
Later that day came the UK game. It goes without saying that it was a huge match and one that neither team wanted to be on the losing side of. They came out of the blocks really quickly and hit us with everything. To our credit we hung in and defended well as a unit. Our gameplan was to keep it tight and take our chances on the break. We went 1-0 up with a well worked goal. Again the UK hit us with everything they had and equalised towards the end. It finished 1-1. The UK lads will say they deserved to win it, and they could have easily won it. But we also had chances too and I think a draw was a fair result in the end. Until next time.
Having played almost 2 full matches with no breaks, I was physically exhausted and just delighted there were no more games that day.
The last game of the group we played Slovakia. A strong physical side who wore us down in the end. We took an early lead again but the game finished in a 3-1 defeat. That was the only game I felt that got away because I thought we were evenly matched.
Physically we were drained going into the last day playoff games. We came up against a very good Hungary team and just didn’t have the energy to compete. It finished 3-0 but we gave it everything.
In our last game we beat Bulgaria 4-0 to finish 7thplace overall. I didn’t want the tournament to end and felt we were improving as each game passed. I was proud of every single one of our lads. We left everything out on the pitch and couldn’t have given anymore. We did the country proud.
On a personal note I was delighted to chip in with a goal against Portugal and Slovakia.
I also particularly enjoyed at the end of each match, where both teams would pose for a photo together. Regardless of the results or when tensions boiled over, we still did it with a smile. It showed a togetherness and great sportsmanship and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
As a team we didn’t get to do much sightseeing in Kiev but we did manage to do a stadium tour of the Olympic Stadium, which was very cool. After feeling the effects of the post tournament celebrations, it probably wasn’t the best idea to run a 100m race on the track in searing heat. It felt like we were running with parachutes on our backs, however I still managed to pip them on the line to win in a ‘respectable’ time of about 20seconds, ahem (video proof below!).
Before I go, I want to give a special thanks to Cathal Fleming who made all of this happen. The time and effort he put in to organising the squad and getting us to Kiev was amazing. When he first thought of the idea to make an Ireland Futsal team, I’m sure he had aspirations of playing outfield and scoring a few goals. But we had no goalkeeper and he ended up playing in goal for us. By the end of the week he was deservedly voted our player of the tournament, which is a testament to the man.
He is currently trying to develop our team further by entering us into our national Futsal league, which can only make us better. If there are any diabetics reading this who live in Ireland and love football, please come and try it out, and thank me later.
I had one of the best weeks of my life and I have genuinely made friends for life in that Ireland squad. An incredible bunch of lads. Can’t wait for next year already.
Ps. I guess this means I’m a blogger now? BABY WE DID IT!!!
I have just fulfilled the dream of every schoolboy and girl who loves sport. I have represented my country at an international tournament. Belting out the national anthem before each game as loud and proud as I could, wearing the union Jack on my kit – this is something I have always dreamed of, but never really thought could happen. But it has. And it has happened with an amazing bunch of team mates, all with the same thing in common. Diabetes.
Since I was diagnosed with diabetes age 5, I have had a love hate relationship with it. When I’m on top of it, and I’m winning, I love it. However, far too often it gets the better of me and I hate it. However, if it wasn’t for diabetes, I wouldn’t have met such an amazing community of people.
A year aģo, I watched on as Chris took the first ever UK team to the 2018 DiaEuros. I hadn’t kicked a ball in 3 years and had retired due to persistent injuries. 10 operations had taken their toll on my body and I’d had enough. However, this was an amazing project that he had set up, and one I wanted to be involved in. But my knowledge of futsal was incredibly limited. However, I didn’t want to be going along all the time if I wasn’t playing. So I decided to rejoin my old 11 a side team in Bristol as well as coming along to all the training sessions with TDFC. I had no intention of putting myself forward for the DiaEuro squad, but wanted to be part of the project. I was enjoying going along to the sessions, and when Chris asked for the final time who wanted to be part of the squad, I had a decision to make; did I want to put myself forward?! I’d heard so many positive things from the previous year that I thought I would. I had no expectation that I’d come close to going, but the thought of it was too good to not try out for. Fast forward a few months and I had been chosen to go to the Ukraine!
My only experience of going away with other diabetics was a kids camp I went on with my family when I was young. While I don’t remember much about it, I didn’t really enjoy it!! This was different though. Every one of us was type 1 diabetic, but we also loved sport, especially football, and in this case futsal. We were able to share stories and help each other out where necessary. Advice was always there if needed, and there was such a range in terms of years of having diabetes. We talked about levels before sporting performance, treatments, different types of insulin….In fact diabetes was quite often one of the main subjects we talked about (as well as football!)
Meals were a challenge, as it was a buffet every meal, we weren’t entirely sure of the carbohydrate content. Some managed it better than others, which was great to see. There was often talk of how much insulin people had given themselves, as well as at what point people gave their insulin.
Going in to the tournament, I thought my bloodsugar control was fairly good. However, being around other diabetics 24-7, I learnt that there is always room for improvement. People who felt 9 was too high to have our blood glucose for a game inspired me to think differently. Whereas before, I might have ignored that, I soon realised that this wasn’t okay, and starting a game with a blood glucose level of 10 might impact upon my performance. I also learnt better treatment of hypos. Too often I over eat and then end up shooting sky high. However, watching other diabetics being patient having had a couple of tablets or some of the amazing lift liquid products we’d been given helped me massively.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have the use of the dexcom G6 for the tournament, which helped my blood glucose levels no end. I started off setting the high alarm at 16, but by the end of the tournament, I had moved it to 10.5. This wasn’t necessarily to treat, but to be aware. It also helped by having arrows, single and double, showing which way my levels were going and at what rate. We have been able to keep this going since returning from Ukraine, and I’m now aware via an alarm when my levels are getting to 4.2, meaning I can treat it before I actually go low.
So after a week where I’ve been so proud to represent my country at futsal, I have also got tips and seen first hand how others also manage their diabetes. Inspired by others, not just from our team and country.
On the playing side of the tournament, sadly the results didn’t reflect the performances we put in. We were well beaten 5-1 by a very good Portugal team in our first game, but the second day was a tough one to take. We outplayed Slovakia but went down 1-0, then again outplayed Ireland, but only managed a 1-1 draw. We had chances, but just couldn’t seem to score the goals. We moved the ball around and the rotations that we’d worked on were going well, but not the results. The next day we were soundly beaten 11-3 by eventual champions Bosnia. By this point we were struggling physically having played the last game on day 2 (our 2nd game that day) and then the first game on day 3. But that’s sport, and we all love it!
The organisation and management was great. We’d get a text the night before telling us our plans, meeting times and what we had to wear or have with us the next day. We then also got one from the amazing physio, Milly, asking if anyone needed treatments, fixing or taping up the next day. As I was sharing a room with fellow old man and captain Tim, Milly spent her fair share of time in our room sorting us out so we could even get out of bed, let alone play!! We had enough kit to be able to have some taken to the laundrette whilst still having enough to wear around and about, train in and travel to and from matches.
There was also a bit of time for sightseeing. We looked around Kiev, and some of the squad were lucky enough to visit Chernobyl on the last day, which was an amazing cultural experience. Without doubt, this is my sporting highlight of my career. Representing my country at a major tournament. But with an amazing group of people who just seem to bond so well. And we all happen to have shown that diabetes can’t hold you back!
Now the dust has settled on the recent DiaEuro’s, I thought it would be a good time to summarise the experience…
It was an unbelievable feeling to pull on the kit and represent the United Kingdom in an international tournament. I have never felt any feeling like the feeling when we sang the national anthem before every game. To score was a bonus, from my own half and against the holders and eventual champions was even more special.
The standard of Futsal was phenomenal at times, especially against the likes of Portugal and Bosnia, they are light years ahead of where the UK as a whole are with Futsal, although to be fair, it is played far more commonly across Central and Eastern Europe, along with South America, than it is here in the UK, but, we are finally making moves forward to somewhat closing the quality gap. We received many comments from opposition managers and players, stating how we were much improved from last year, even if the eventual results did not show this.
We were beaten 5-1 in the opening game against Portugal, although we felt the scoreline was pretty harsh, we had no argument about the loss itself. The day after we then lost 1-0 to Slovakia, after dominating the game, which was disappointing and then, in the afternoon, we drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland, again, after having the majority of chances.
We were truly up against it as we then required a result against the holders, Bosnia & Herzegovina, to have a chance of progressing from the group stage. They blitzed us in the first half and we were 8-1 down at half time and 11-1 down within 2 minutes of the 2nd half beginning…! To our credit, we dominated most of the second half, which included my goal, but the game was long gone by then…Bosnia went on to beat the hosts, Ukraine, 1-0, in the final, therefore retaining their title.
It has been great reading all the messages of support from home whilst we were over there, thanks so much for those, it meant a lot to the team and pushed us even further to take pride in representing both our country and condition. It was great to have my Dad supporting us up in the stands for all the games too, along with family members of other players and also people from other nations, who took to our fight and determination on display.
I can genuinely say that it was a pleasure and a privilege to line up alongside each and every one of you lads in the squad…the spirit we showed to play for each other, our country and condition was second to none…at 11-1 down against the tournaments best team, we rallied round and promised each other that we would hold strong and use that first half “schooling” as a lesson, to then play out the rest of the half at a score of 2-0 in our favour was exactly what was needed, even if it was too late to rescue anything from the match.
We formed bonds with many of the players from other nations, including Portugal, Ukraine and Croatia, something that will help us both at future DiaEuro tournaments, and, as a team as a whole.
The main message overall was to prove that Diabetes should be no barrier to playing sport and competing at a high standard. I never thought I would represent my country at this level in any sport but now that I have done, I am very proud to say that. The team as a whole was really supportive of each other, helping each other out when low – many of the guys provided me with the Lift glucose tablets when I hadn’t any left over and the Dexcom G6 CGM allowed constant monitoring for the whole squad, the beep became a famous notification amongst the squad, meaning nobody could avoid correcting their levels!
Despite the results, the experience was absolutely first class, I am very proud of each and every one of the team, including the management staff and our supporters who came out to Ukraine to cheer us on…simply the best!
As a Diabetic, there are no barriers to what you can achieve – whether you want to represent your country or just simply play sport with your friends in the park, you can achieve any of this…Diabetes will not stop you from participating or achieving your dreams. Some days are certainly tougher than others but with constantly improving technology, awareness and support groups, like TDFC, the boundaries and barriers are becoming smaller and the world is becoming more aware of Diabetes…
I hope we as a squad have inspired and motivated many of you back at home and those of you who are a part of the TDFC community. The results may have not gone our way this year, but, our main goal is always to spread the word and pass on the message that Diabetes creates no barriers to achieving what you wish.
A year on from the first time we sent a team to represent the UK and Type 1 Diabetes we’re now just a few weeks away from doing it all over again!!! I can’t believe how quickly the year since the last tournament has gone….
This project comes with a huge amount of workload and responsibility but it’s worth all of the effort! My hope is that this team continues to inspire, dispel the stereotypes around Diabetes and comfort those living with the condition. I am a firm believer that with the right support, education and mentality Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t have to be a mountain to climb, more an extra hurdle to jump.
On the 21st of July 2019, 11 men all living with Type 1 Diabetes, will be boarding the plane to represent our condition and our country at the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes……. To know we’ve set about bringing that to life fills me with so much pride that I find it hard to explain. I believe it’s the greatest achievement of my life creating TDFC and being able to share it with others in the way we do now is beyond what I thought was possible… We now have a committed group of people helping to make the project happen that believe in the direction and work we do. A special organisation with special things to come!
We now look towards our final training session ahead of DiaEuro on the 14th of July… As our last session before the tournament we’d also love FOR YOU to come and meet the team that will be representing YOU…. So if you’d like to drop in to the University of Worcester ( WR2 6AJ ) between 2 and 4pm on the 14th of July you can watch the team train, catch up with the management and meet the squad! Just let us know that you’re thinking about attending by sending us a message…
I hope you’ll support our journey to the tournament and help us by liking, commenting and sharing our updates on social media. The squad will do everything we can to make you proud! The team will be playing their games in Kiev, Ukraine from 22nd – 26th of July whilst taking part in a number of championship events to support the awareness and education surrounding the condition. If you’d like to send the team any kind of good luck message we’d love to see it… I know it will fuel their motivation even more to know that their example is helping you.
Here you can see the UK Team announced by England Cricket Legends Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson:
Tim Ward (GK)
Head Coach: Harley Simpson , Content & Logistics Manager: Rosie Williams , Physiotherapist: Milly Webb
Congratulations to everyone selected as it’s a huge honour to represent your country and one of even greater importance when you’re also representing those living with your medical condition.
Another amazing story to share with the community brought to you by Karen Brown, the mother of Ellen, a young type 1 who’s having a fantastic time with her Football/Futsal at the moment. Ellen & Karen have been big advocates and supporters of our work at TDFC from the very early days so it’s brilliant to be able to share their story! No more words needed from us, over to you Karen…
“Our daughter Ellen was diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes. As you all know it hits like a bomb and the early days are hard. Somewhere amongst the haze of diagnosis we made a decision that when we got Ellen home we would stabilise her doing all of the sport she usually did. So the day after discharge we took her to school for a few hours and the following Monday she started back swimming. I sat on the edge of the pool chewing my nails hoping she would be fine. Strangely enough the year she was diagnosed is the only year she hasn’t played football (played 1 year of netball and hated it!). Ellen prefers to manage her diabetes with a pump (Medtronic) and we use CGM periodically.
Since then it has been buckets of football and within the last 4 years she has also played futsal in the off-season. It is amazing how different the two are to manage. Football often sends her low- particularly in the cold Canberra winters (we live in Australia) whereas futsal sends her high due to the adrenaline. As futsal isn’t as big in Canberra her futsal club (Boomerangs FS) travel to Sydney to play in a Sydney comp. So every Sydney game we travel between 2 ½ to 4 hours each way (depending on what side of Sydney the game is) to play. The weather in Canberra is quite dry whereas Sydney can be humid which can affect Ellen’s BGLs (sends her low) so at the half way stop en route to the game we reduce insulin if she has any carbs and put a reduced temp basal on. We find doing low carb on the morning prior to the Sydney trips much easier to manage. At least we are only fixing the humidity problem. Then during the games she heads high! Sydney games we nearly always use CGM to help keep an eye on things. If it’s a home game its breakfast as usual. After the game she eats what she wants.
Whilst having diabetes can be tough when you are playing football and futsal, we run at it with the attitude that if we have a tough day diabetes wise we look at why and see if we can do something different. There are days when you just can’t explain why the numbers are what they are! All of her coaches and teams have been really supportive and the boys often try and guess her Blood Glucose Level – she plays in the Boys National Premier League. Ellen also chooses to celebrate her ‘diaversary’, so the team usually hangs out for the cupcakes she takes along to celebrate another year kicking the butt of diabetes.
Having diabetes hasn’t stopped Ellen from achieving in soccer and futsal. The last 12 months have been particularly rewarding!!! 12 months ago her girls futsal team won both the premiership and championship in the Sydney comp. For outdoor her BBFC U16’s team made the Grand Final and won in a penalty shootout. She then made the ACT team (regional team) to play futsal at Nationals in January – they were runners up in the Grand Final in a penalty shootout. And a couple of weeks ago at the presentation night for Boomerangs FS, Ellen was awarded female player of the year. We are pretty proud of her. Winning isn’t everything but it is great to get some wins and they have been a while coming!! Though I must say the victories are much sweeter after the effort you put in to get the diabetes right. (excuse the pun!)
As much as it is a challenge, there have been lots of good things about having diabetes in our lives for the last 8 years. We have made a whole new bunch of friends we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Whilst it is so nice being able to converse with those who understand the challenges and learn new things from. Ellen has had the opportunity to speak at JDRF fundraisers and she was recently asked to take part in some research at ANU.
Being part of TDFC has been a huge help though. It was so nice to hear from others who play football and be able to read about their experiences. With Ellen being a girl it was so nice to read about Noel and what she has achieved. We got to meet Zac (UK DiaEuro Player) at one of Ellen’s games in Sydney and hope to see him again soon. Whilst it’s also great to see that Chris represented his country in Futsal, which gives Ellen so much hope she can achieve the same.
To any young footballer out there, chase your dreams. Ellen’s favourite saying is “I don’t live with diabetes, diabetes lives with me”.”
A really great blog written by Karen Brown and a huge thank you from us for putting it together. If there’s anyone out there reading this who’d like to contribute in a similar way get in touch! We’re always on the look out for blogs and stories to share…
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.
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).
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!
If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown