Ask the expert – we put your questions to a leading expert in type 1 diabetes, exercise, and nutrition. Thank you to JDRF and Matt for the support in the creation of this content. For more information, support and resources from JDRF, click here
Author: Dr Matthew Campbell | PhD ACSM-CEP MIFST RNutr FHEA BSc hons.
Read time: 5-10 minutes
The two main nutritional considerations for football are eating enough carbohydrate and drinking enough fluid. Whereas this is important in the time leading up to a match, it is also important to take on additional energy and fluids during the match.
What should I eat during exercise?
Research studies consistently show performance benefits during simulated football matches when carbohydrate is consumed during exercise at a rate of approximately 30-60 grams per hour (41-44), or up to 60 grams before each half (45). The 30-60 grams of carbohydrate can be taken after warm-up and again at half-time to meet these guidelines. Consuming 30-60 grams of carbohydrate in the form of food such as energy bars can sometimes be difficult and result in stomach upset. However, carbohydrate-based drinks and gels can often minimise potential stomach issues – it will also help with hydration as discussed below. A major consideration about carbohydrate intake immediately before and during exercise will be managing the impact of this on blood glucose levels. You will need to make a judgement about how best to manage your insulin dose to minimise blood glucose spikes, and, to ensure that you do not have excessive insulin ‘on-board’ during the game which could cause hypoglycaemia – read this article about insulin dosing strategies for exercise.
What should I do if I struggle to manage blood glucose levels when consuming carbohydrate during a match?
If controlling blood glucose levels is difficult for you during football and you’re worried that eating carbohydrate might make this worse there is another, rather strange, but very special technique to try – carbohydrate mouth rinsing. The body is equipped with specialised receptors within the mouth that can detect carbohydrate. This detection of carbohydrates sends signals to the brain that reduce the perception of effort1. Carbohydrate mouth rinsing, which involves rinsing, but not swallowing, the mouth with a carbohydrate-based solution – like you would with mouthwash – has been shown to increase self-paced jogging speed with likely benefits in sprint performance during intermittent types of exercise2,3. There is limited research investigating this technique within applied football settings, although it is logical to think that this strategy could be effective. Using the carbohydrate mouth rinsing technique during breaks in match play (like half-time periods, extra-time, injury stoppages, and medical breaks) could potentially improve performance in situations where eating carbohydrate is either impractical or likely to cause stomach upset or unwanted blood glucose spikes. If your glucose levels tend to be stable during the match and managing hyperglycaemia isn’t too much of an issue for you, then you can combine mouth-rinsing and swallowing. Swallowing a carbohydrate-based drink following a short (approximately 5 second) mouth rinse allows for both the activation of brain signals to reduce perceived effort and will provide extra fuel to the body. This type of strategy might be particularly effective towards the end of games where fatigue may start to impact decisions making processes.
How much fluid should I drink during a match?
Although you can buy isotonic sports drinks, you can also make your own by simply adding a little salt to some squash. It is well established that dehydration impairs both physical and mental performance4,5, although some people are more sensitive to the effects of dehydration than others. The amount of fluid your body requires during a match is determined largely by the amount that you sweat, which, differs from one person to the next, and is dependent on the intensity of exercise, external factors like humidity and temperature, and how well you are acclimatised to the conditions6. Sweat rates in male footballers have previously been reported to range from 0.5-2.5 litres per hour7-9, whereas lower values are generally reported in female players largely because women tend to be smaller than men and expend less energy during exercise10-12. As well as water, sweat also contains electrolytes – primarily sodium (salt) – the amounts of which, again vary from person to person9. As a general guide, footballers should aim to drink sufficient fluids to avoid a reduction of 2-3% of pre-match body weight during a match13 and avoiding gains in body weight to prevent over hydration. As a starting point, measure your weight before and after a match (or even better during training), if you have lost more than 2-3% of your starting body weight then you need to drink more during matches when you can!
If you are interested in learning how to improve managing your type 1 diabetes around exercise book a consultation with the author, Dr Matthew Campbell: email@example.com
Matthew is an internationally recognised research scientist specialising in exercise, diet, and type 1 diabetes. He also provides consultancy and diabetes coaching to people living with type 1 diabetes and those that support them.
Matthew has a PhD in nutrition and exercise metabolism, is author to over 150 research publications, and holds honorary titles with the University of Cambridge and University of Leeds. He is a certified clinical exercise physiologist accredited by the American College of Sports Medicine, a registered nutritionist, and a member of the Institute of Food Science and Technology. He also provides consultancy to professional bodies and professional athletes including NHS England, the World Health Organisation, and TeamGB.
If you are interested in learning how to improve your type 1 diabetes management, contact Matthew at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carter JM, Jeukendrup AE, Jones DA. The effect of carbohydrate mouth rinse on 1-h cycle time trial performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2004;36(12):2107-2111.
Rollo I, Homewood G, Williams C, Carter J, Goosey-Tolfrey VL. The influence of carbohydrate mouth rinse on self-selected intermittent running performance. Internatonal journal of sports and exercise metabolism. 2015;25(6):550-558.
Rollo I, Williams C, Gant N, Nute M. The influence of carbohydrate mouth rinse on self-selected speeds during a 30-min treadmill run. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2008;18(6):585-600.
Mohr M, Krustrup P. Heat stress impairs repeated jump ability after competitive elite soccer games. The journal of strength & conditioning research. 2013;27(3):683-689.
McGregor S, Nicholas C, Lakomy H, Williams C. The influence of intermittent high-intensity shuttle running and fluid ingestion on the performance of a soccer skill. Journal of sports sciences.1999;17(11):895-903.
Smith JW, Bello ML, Price FG. A case-series observation of sweat rate variability in endurance-trained athletes. Nutrients. 2021;13(6):1807.
Shirreffs SM, Aragon-Vargas LF, Chamorro M, Maughan RJ, Serratosa L, Zachwieja JJ. The sweating response of elite professional soccer players to training in the heat. International journal of sports medicine. 2005;26(02):90-95.
Baker LB, Barnes KA, Anderson ML, Passe DH, Stofan JR. Normative data for regional sweat sodium concentration and whole-body sweating rate in athletes. Journal of sports sciences. 2016;34(4):358-368.
Maughan R, Shirreffs S, Merson S, Horswill C. Fluid and electrolyte balance in elite male football (soccer) players training in a cool environment. Journal of sports sciences. 2005;23(1):73-79.
Da Silva RP, Mündel T, Natali AJ, et al. Pre-game hydration status, sweat loss, and fluid intake in elite Brazilian young male soccer players during competition. Journal of sports sciences. 2012;30(1):37-42.
Horowitz M. Heat acclimation, epigenetics, and cytoprotection memory. Comprehensive Physiology. 2011;4(1):199-230.
Kilding A, Tunstall H, Wraith E, Good M, Gammon C, Smith C. Sweat rate and sweat electrolyte composition in international female soccer players during game specific training. International journal of sports medicine. 2009;30(06):443-447.
McDermott BP, Anderson SA, Armstrong LE, et al. National athletic trainers’ association position statement: fluid replacement for the physically active. Journal of athletic training. 2017;52(9):877-895.
TDFC London – Quality In Care Diabetes Award Winners 2022. I can’t quite believe it. It’s been a huge team effort and after a few weeks to let it settle in, I thought I’d share mine and the team’s journey.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over ten years ago, and needless to say it was quite a shock! There was so much to get my head around, but one of my biggest concerns was being able to get back playing football. I went years before meeting a fellow type 1 and it took a long time to work out how to manage the condition while playing sport.
And then there was a breakthrough moment. I came across a fledgling initiative called The Diabetes Football Community (TDFC). I signed up to one of their first ever meet-ups, and what a journey it’s been since.
Suddenly I was playing competitive matches against other people with type 1 diabetes. In between games, team members exchanged insights about new glucose tracking technologies, different methods of delivering insulin and practical tips on managing diabetes whilst playing football. After just one match I picked up so much useful advice and diabetes life-hacks that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
At DiaEuro 2018 we realised that there was the enough players to potentially set a team based in London and if we did so we’d be the first ever all-type 1 diabetes team to compete in a mainstream league. Hence TDFC London was formed, with the aim of providing open and inclusive football-based meet-ups for people with type 1 diabetes, and to help show that the diagnosis doesn’t need to be a barrier to participation. This diverse group celebrates each individual as their own entity. We’ve helped each other gain access to diabetes technology and referred individuals to health services they were unaware of prior to joining.
COVID-19 put a long pause on the group meeting up, but the peer support element of the project really kicked in, with teammates all sharing support and guidance in dealing with the dreaded ‘COVID-type 1 combo’ via WhatsApp. Post-pandemic, we came back even stronger, going on a winning streak to eventually fulfil our goal of becoming champions of the North London Futsal League 🏆
I work at the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health alongside a great team as part of the National Diabetes Quality Programme. We see first-hand the issues around drop-out rates when transitioning from paediatric to adult services. I’m convinced that projects like TDFC can directly support diabetes services in enabling self-management and help to signpost people back into diabetes services to ensure things like technology access.
My teammate Muhammed Ismail has been an amazing ambassador for the project and secretly submitted our team’s concept and achievement for this year’s Quality in Care Diabetes Awards. To our amazement, we won the Unsung Heroes award! The judges commented:
“TDFC London was an inspirational, heart-warming and feel-good entry that has offered support to a group of young Type 1s. This could be replicated nationwide. It is a great example of peer support, ingenious and particularly focusses on young men – a notoriously difficult group to connect with and an often-overlooked group.”
Much like my glucose levels, there’s been lots of ups and downs over the years since being diagnosed. However, I’m very grateful to have stumbled across TDFC and my experience with this group has been a standout highlight.
Peer support is a powerful tool for empowering those with long-term conditions. Sport is a powerful vehicle for bringing people together. Combining the two has so much potential!
It’s been a little while since we shared a blog on the website, so we thought it was a great opportunity to share the story of one of our newest members to the community… Thank you Tom for sharing what you went through upon diagnosis and we hope that your story will provide comfort and support to those who may face this in the future… No more words from us, over to you Tom to talk us through what happened.
“Football was the first sign
The last game of the 2021/2022 season was a mid-week evening fixture on the 20th April, away in a small village outside of Lincoln. A very scratchy 11 players were put together with a couple of late stragglers turning up to fill the subs bench after work and family commitments… Sunday league football in England at it’s finest. Playing at centre half, the dream of being a marauding midfielder has long been forgotten since turning 30! After around 70 minutes something happened which I had never experienced in my whole-time playing football, as I had excruciating pain in both of my calves as they cramped up. At the time, through lack of awareness and a large chunk of denial about my own health, I convinced myself that age had finally caught up with me and I wasn’t as fit as I once was! I struggled on for 10 more minutes before giving up and giving the gaffer the dreaded arm roll signal above the head to indicate I needed to come off. To add to the dismay of being subbed off, we managed to throw away a two-goal lead and concede two late goals to draw the game and consign ourselves to rock bottom of the 1st division after a long tough season! Unfortunately, our collective lack of footballing ability wasn’t the only thing to become apparent after this game.
My ‘diaversary’, as I have often affectionately seen it referred to on social media, is 18th May 2022. The usual sore muscles and cramping up in the night after a football game occurred, which I attributed to dehydration from the game that evening. I also attributed my constant thirst and then spending most of the night getting up to go to the toilet to this! I felt could explain all these things with a plausible causality to feelings after a tough game so thought nothing more of it. I carried on my usual daily routine after this, a little bit tired and run down, still thirsty and still weeing a lot! I was a teacher, and we were coming to the end of a school year, and I told myself I must be ready for a break and ploughed on through, although the symptoms never went away. I always tell people never to google your symptoms, but you never follow your own advice and one word kept coming up whenever I put them into the NHS website……. DIABETES. I was 34, fit, healthy, a good weight, no family history anywhere of Diabetes, I was sure it wouldn’t be that. I couldn’t deny that I wasn’t well for much longer and finally succumbed to pressure from my partner to book a doctor’s appointment. Casually dropping off a urine sample and having some bloods taken at the doctors before setting off on my way to work. I received a phone call about an hour later containing lots of words such as: ‘DKA’, ‘Diabetes’ and ‘A&E’. Within an hour I was sat in A&E on a drip with more bloods being taken, more meetings with doctors and no more idea what was going on! A very long and scary night at home alone followed this and a phone call from the doctor in the morning confirming Diabetes and directing me straight to Clinic 1 at the hospital. I was greeted by Diabetes Specialist Nurse and walked out an hour later with a blood glucose monitor, 2 pens of insulin and a lot of leaflets. I had never felt more overwhelmed in my life!
Getting back to football
I am never ashamed to admit I cried for most of that evening. The gravity of what a lifetime of diabetes means really is something which is quite incomprehensible at times. I was convinced footballing life was over and I was going to be confined to a life of golf! I had no idea how playing sport whilst managing diabetes worked and it was one of my first questions in my follow-up with my diabetes nurse the next week. As always seems to be the way with diabetes, it could not have been anymore inconvenient, with a house move and job move all scheduled for June! It did however afford me a summer break to get my head around living with diabetes and my body’s responses to exercise. My first experience of getting back into sport was an attempted cricket game in early June. As could be expected this went terribly and after having a very sweaty, dizzy and shaky moment whilst batting, I spent most of our turn to field eating a banana and various sweets from my pocket – there was a lot to learn! I was luckily given a libre 2 sensor around 3 weeks after diagnosis and this made the start of preseason in late June a lot more successful. I’m sure I did over 30 scans in my first session! I turned up armed with chocolate bars for some sugar beforehand, enough Haribo for a kid’s party and more water than any one person would ever need. At any opportunity I would nip off to tap my arm with my phone and check my levels. After a 90-minute session with some highs and lows it was overall a positive result. Maybe this wasn’t the end of the road for me after all! I managed to negotiate most of pre-season training and matches without too many wobbles, although the heat nearly did me a couple of times if it wasn’t the diabetes. However, after every session, there was always advice and support to fall back on from the TDFC community if things had gone wrong with people always happy to answer any questions or offer advice.
I stumbled across Chris whilst searching out other people with Diabetes on twitter, looking for insight, inspiration, advice and general empathy from people going through something similar to me. I found the TDFC twitter page and dropped it a message before carrying on my mindless scrolling and forgetting all about it. The next day I got a reply from Chris and before long he had introduced me to the TDFC community and added me to the WhatsApp group. To find a place where people had experienced the same thing or going through similar situations was a comfort and motivator. Being able to ask questions and get answers from people all over the country and beyond was brilliant. Not just on football topics but every life experience with diabetes you can think of! I am yet to make a TDFC training session and join in a kick about but look forward to hopefully making one and sharing synchronised glucose checking and hypo snacks!
From speaking to others about diabetes I realise that it is a marathon not a sprint and no one ever truly masters it. You are thrown in at the deep end on day one and must quickly adapt to the basics but with the pace at which things are moving with diabetes and technology there is so much more to learn. I recently listened to a discussion on Twitter speaking about exercise and my mind was blown listening to people talk about open and closed loop systems, basal rates, adjustments and insulin sensitivity. I’m sure it will all make sense to me one day and I am not the only newly diagnosed diabetic trying to make sense of it all.
Game one of the season has just gone without a hitch (a boring 0-0 draw) and 90 minutes at centre half was successfully negotiated. This is thanks to some of the advice and routines I have put in place with advice from the TDFC group chat and the post which Chris had done on the TDFC website which helped a lot. I’ve managed to keep my sensor on which I thought would never happen and have had great support from my teammates! I’m hoping I have a few years left in me yet……”
Thank you for sharing your story so openly Tom and If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and want to share your own story with us please do get in contact with us…
“In some respects what I am about to talk about is not a day I want to remember, however TDFC founder Chris Bright made me think about the experience in a different way.
I am currently playing my first season of futsal for Bedford Futsal Club who are in the Women’s Super Series South. Our season got off to a great start with a strong win & I even bagged myself a hat-trick, however our second game of the season stepped up a level…
The day itself brought a lot of new challenges that we all as a team had to try and combat. For instance, playing a very strong opposition, having crowds back and being streamed live on TV with BT Sports.. yes BT Sports!
On Saturday 9th October I was lucky enough to be the first female type 1 diabetic to play competitive futsal live on BT Sports (as far as I am aware… definitely reach out if you know differently!!!).
The Lead Up to the Game
The day before was sensor change day, something I’ve never had problems with.
I applied my sensor as normal, however, once set up was complete I received an error notification reading ‘replace sensor, sensor not working’ – luckily, I did have another sensor with me as I get two a month. So I thought no stress I will just replace the faulty one and as I’ve never had this issue before it must be a one off. After applying the second sensor and after checking my levels once or twice I got the same error message – what are the chances both sensors didn’t work??
The panic started to kick in – I am not going to be able to control my bloods as I would want to for the big game tomorrow without my sensor. Fortunately, I was able to go and purchase an additional sensor from a local pharmacy which thankfully worked. I was however very conscious of the accuracy given my experience that day, therefore I was sense checking my sugars with a finger prick for the rest of the evening to gain confidence.
On The Day..
I hadn’t had a great night with the blood sugars, I often go to sleep with bloods in range to find them spike in the night, which is what happened the night before the game. I woke up around 2/3am by chance and had a correction dose as my blood glucose levels were rising above 15mmol’s. As you can see from the below graph this started to kick in but as my bloods dropped back into range it spiked again. I then woke up just before 6am and saw my bloods were too high yet again so I decided to do another correction dose, hoping to wake in a couple of hours with much better glucose level.
When my alarm went off around 7:30am my bloods were dipping into the low territory, which I treated with my usual carton of orange juice. I then had a decision to make as it was essential I got my levels under control for the day.
We had a 2:30pm kick off which in itself adds complications and decisions to be made around when I would need to fuel up for the game with potentially 2 meal times to squeeze in whilst also ensuring my bloods were under control from the get-go. As I had just treated my low sugars, I was conscious of them spiking if I had breakfast straight away – so I decided to hold out and just pack breakfast for the journey.
To help relax before the game and give the legs a good stretch beforehand we decided to travel up early and catch some of the earlier games. We wanted to familiarise ourselves with the settings, try to squash the external pressures and settle the nerves.
I had read a very interesting blog only days before from a type 1 who ran the London Marathon (who I now know to be Scott Burrell (what a legend and don’t miss his podcast about it by clicking here) who had experienced the negative side of adrenaline and added pressures of big events on blood sugars, leading him to not be able to bring his levels down to perform at his best.
This was playing a lot on my mind in the lead up to and on game day.
As I had held out on having breakfast my bloods started to drop during the journey up to Birmingham, so I decided to treat this again with the trusty orange juice carton and one Weetabix.
My bloods started to rise again ahead of the warm-up, so I did another couple of units as I know my bloods tend to rise once I start playing. This seemed to eventually start to work, however, the adrenaline mixed with the usual during exercise spike still managed to creep in across the second half of the game.
I didn’t feel the impact of this movement as I was very focused on the game but on reflection I probably could have benefited from another unit or so whilst I was off the court.
Overall, considering the occasion, I was fairly happy with my blood sugars, however, I wish the lead up to game day and previous night’s levels were a bit more in control as I know the middle of the night highs, and the corresponding lows, have an impact on my body throughout the following day.
After a tough game and unfortunate result, the day ended with a huge spike in sugars from the evening meal that I consumed post game to drown the sorrows.
There are definitely some learning points I can take from the day to help me move forward if we are lucky enough to be on live tv again in the new year.
When I take a step back, I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to play live on BT Sports and will continue to work hard to have that opportunity again.
Having type 1 diabetes does add a number of extra daily considerations and decision points, but I will never let it hold me back from doing the things I work hard for. “
Louise is part of the TDFC Womens team leading the push to provide more education, support and opportunities for girls and women to get more from their Football and Futsal, whilst living with Diabetes. Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more!
I attended my first TDFC session in July following an introduction to the project by Mo who found my Facebook profile on a Type-1 diabetes page & saw from my profile photo that I was a football fan.
I have been a Type-1 diabetic for over 30 years and could probably count the number of fellow Type-1’s who I have met during this time on one hand. However, during the challenges of the past 18 months and after experiencing some side effects caused by diabetes, the want & need to meet with people going through similar life experiences was heightened. The TDFC project provided this; the fact that everyone also had a passion for the sport I have loved for the past 35 years was a bonus!
In a strange coincidence, one of the other guys who was also planning on attending the session in July lives literally around the corner from me, a mere 7-min drive away! Buncy and me agreed to travel the 2.5hrs to Worcester (from Berkshire) together and got to know each other through an exchange that covered blood glucose levels, diabetes management, hypo symptoms and of course, football. Turns out Buncy is a Watford fan, so there was much fun to be had….
Once we arrived into Worcester, I found the meet & greet/get to know each other session really powerful. I have not before realised the benefits of such a session. They empower people to work to solve their own problems. Everyone in attendance are equals and I felt that this made people feel much more comfortable opening up about their diabetes journey and related experiences. After a very tough last 18 months with Covid & the various lockdowns, I believe that sessions like this can reduce any anxieties, whilst improving self-esteem, and providing a sense of well-being overall.
The actual training session was itself a surreal experience. Playing futsal/football with other guys who were flicking their phone across the Libre on their arms to monitor their BG levels every so often whilst having conversations about various diabetes management strategies adopted for a rigorous football/futsal session was something I hadn’t seen before. Somehow, it almost seemed ‘normal’ to take mini-breaks to take BG readings and to read them out to the group with no judgments made. I personally awoke with a BG of 12mmol so spent the whole car journey up trying to get it to a suitable level, but I did too much of a good job of this and ended up starting the session with a 3.3mmol highlighted in red flashing up on my own phone via my Libre. Thankfully, there was an assortment of glucose options supplied to support the treatment of a low BG.
I have been playing a decent standard of football for over 30 years, but futsal is a very different game; more tactical, more structured and more intense with less time to recover from a period of attacking or defending. Having put in a couple of additional pounds during the lockdowns, I’d admit that I need to better prepare myself to suitably compete for the next session! The standards were pretty high and were refined by the guidance and coaching of Brighty, culminating in a very good team goal during the actual practice match. Thankfully, the goal was scored by the team that I was on…
After a competitive and enjoyable session, I managed to join a couple of the guys for a quick ad-hoc lunch before we all departed for our return journeys home. We all shared some more stories on our diabetes journey. A couple of the guys were newly diagnosed, so it was empowering for me to share my own 30 year story of diabetes & to highlight what I had achieved, both personally & professionally to send a message that diabetes shouldn’t hold you back.
Personally, for me, the whole experience was humbling, empowering & enlightening whilst providing a much-needed boost to my mental mindset. I also got to find out that I ‘wasn’t the only type-1 in the village’….
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!
2020 hasn’t been the year any of us expected and instead it has provided us with challenges that none of us could have imagined… It’s been tough for the entire world to come to terms with….. So what we’d like to do now is showcase how some of our community have been coping with the situation we’ve been confronted by. So if you’d like to share your lockdown or post lockdown story of how you’ve been dealing with the COVID19 crisis we’d love to hear from you!!! Send your stories in to us with your pictures and videos and we will get them on the website. We hope that by sharing your story it will help and inspire someone else who might be finding the situation difficult to cope with.
To kick us off we’ve got a story shared by Tim Ward (Our Men’s UK DiaEuro team Captain) about how he’s been adapting with COVID19 to coach children all whilst trying to keep himself safe after 40 years with type 1. No more words from us, over to Tim :
“The footballing world has always been a tricky one to navigate with Type 1 Diabetes, what are my blood sugar levels, have I got my glucose/Lucozade, what time did I eat, will I need something more at half time. The list goes on. Now as a coach it feels to me the bar has been raised. I now have eighteen 7 to 10 year olds to care for so I have to be on my game and touch wood, I’ve never had a hypo yet while coaching.
After the COVID-19 lockdown the academy (IFA) I work for started to run academy and pre academy sessions again (to the delight of the kids and the parents as a chance to burn off some pent up energy) in June after the FA guidance gave us guidelines to do so.
The restrictions including limits on player numbers attending, social distancing and hygiene, disinfection requirements were a needed headache especially for me being within the high risk group (44 years old, type 1 diabetic). But I’m fit and healthy so don’t put me down just yet. 😊
Every child and coach had their own station to place drinks, possessions etc and parents were asked to stand at the far end of the pitches where we trained, whilst being well aware of the requirements through WhatsApp messages and our Heja app.
As a group we designed some amazing sessions emphasising ball mastery and challenges which kept the kids entertained and making them competitive through time trials & races which mitigated the lack of competitive matches.
Thankfully we can now run normal (ish) sessions but the planning and organisation required in the beginning I feel has improved me as a coach. I spent hours reviewing all aspects of each session more thoroughly whilst spending more time reflecting to make each session a great one (still working on that).
As a diabetic of 40 years being prepared has always been part of my make up and the extra restrictions and planning required didn’t really alter my approach, get it done, crack on. Always making sure I’ve planned for my diabetes as well as the sessions, to ensure that me and the kids are as safe as we can be, so we can all enjoy what we love doing, playing football!”
Make sure you get in touch if you’d like to share your story.
Disclaimer – Some of what you’ll read in Scott’s journey portrays difficulties, mistakes and challenges that have shaped who he is. As human beings we cannot go through life without making difficult decisions, but through doing this, we learn and evolve into who we were meant to be. But please be warned that some of Scott’s journey touches on some of those difficulties, mistakes, challenges and emotions that some may find tough to read.
It’s an extremely powerful, emotive and truthful account of how life has been for one of our own and we hope you enjoy the read.
Over to Scott to take us on his journey…
“My name is Scott Burrell, I’m 31 years old and have been a Type 1 Diabetic for 20 and a half of those 31 years! I remember my diagnosis day/week incredibly well considering I was only 11 years-old. It was the October half-term (so yes strictly speaking I’ve been T1 for longer than 20 and a half years now!) and I wasn’t going down to the village green to play football with my friends. I hadn’t been on any day of the break as I’d been laid on the sofa at home, this was very much out of character as usually I would be down that green every single evening in the summer and every day during school holidays playing football. I was drinking ridiculous amounts, drinking things I would never usually drink and even at one point freezing fizzy drinks (all full sugar in those days!) in an attempt to ‘freeze out’ the acid! The crazy mind of an 11 year old child! It had got to the point where I was going for a drink every 5-10 minutes and going to the toilet 6 or 7 times an hour. My parents called a doctor out on the Wednesday night as I had deteriorated again quite quickly, I did a urine test which was no problem at all as I was going to the toilet so regularly and as soon as that was done the doctor advised my parents to take me to the hospital ASAP. My dad drove the three of us to Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincs (fantastic hospital for T1 care by the way!) and before I knew it I was on the ward strapped up to many drips and cables looking very much like a scene from Casualty was about to be shot…without the tomato sauce for blood! My mmol on the finger prick was 34.7 (normal range between 4 – 10 mmols ) and I was diagnosed T1 straight away. I don’t recall having ever heard the word diabetes before let alone having any idea what it was.
I remained in hospital for the next four nights and left on the Sunday. I’d had to take on so much information during this time I’m sure like everybody in this situation. I remember not being allowed to leave hospital until I’d done an injection myself, I was desperate to leave so reluctantly did one into my right quad which was a favoured injection site of mine for many, many years. This was so horrible and painful but the price I had to pay if I wanted to leave the hospital ward. I was on a twice daily mixed insulin, Humulin M3 and took this before breakfast and before evening meal. It combined 30% fast acting and 70% long acting. My parents were advised to practice on each other with water and I was told I could gain practice by injecting into an orange! I’m sure times have changed an awful lot now!
I would say initially I was doing pretty well as a T1, I tested fairly regularly, always logged my results in the log book, never missed an injection, tried as best I could and my hba1c was always in the 6-8 range so fairly acceptable. I hid my diabetes as much as I could. I always had breakfast and dinner at home so had no need to take any insulin to school with me and this suited me, I was different. As far as I knew I was the only T1 in my year and possibly in the school at the time however if there was another keeping it secret like myself then I wouldn’t know anyway. I had told a couple of close friends that I’d been in hospital and that I now had Type 1 Diabetes but similar to myself none of them had any idea what it was. The teaching staff were aware and I remember the first time I had to discuss this with a teacher, I was petrified. I was in the changing room for PE and was told by the hospital to have a fun size Mars bar before any sport, of course eating was banned in school classrooms and changing rooms so this would have been very out of place. I asked the teacher as quietly as I could if I could have said Mars bar because ‘I have diabetes’ and was greeted with a yes straight away. I tried to conceal eating this as much as possible from the rest of the group and seemed to succeed in doing so. This doesn’t seem like a lot but for me it signified difference. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be a normal 11 year old!
Fast forward a few years and I struggled during my teenage years with T1. I thought I was invincible and that it wasn’t something I needed to be concerned with. I very rarely tested, at my worst I did maybe one or two finger prick tests a month at times when I had played football, all other times I would just disregard testing. I didn’t think it was relevant, I didn’t care what my glucose levels were. I did however take my injections and never missed a single one. Before any appointments at the hospital with the DSN I would just make up readings (different coloured pens for authenticity of course!) in my log book and if I felt myself going hypo I would just eat, usually chocolate as we were told that was good for hypos then or Lucozade tablets which were very similar to the Lift tabs now. I recall one poignant day was actually on a family day trip to London, I would have been about 13 years-old at this point and we were in McDonalds having dinner, my dad had ordered a selection of items and we were to take what we wanted from the table in the busy upstairs seating area. I went to the toilets to do my injection only to find that they were out of order. I went back to the table and just sat down, I didn’t take any food and started crying. My dad was asking me what was up, but I didn’t answer, I continued crying and was very upset. I had nowhere private to inject so therefore made the decision that I would just not eat. I was that insistent on keeping my diabetes a secret I wasn’t prepared to sit in a restaurant and allow people to see me doing an injection, that’s not normal, or so I thought aged 13. Jumping ahead slightly here, I later found out much later that a lot of my injections were almost a waste of time anyway as I was injecting into non-recommended sites on my body. Looking back, I would imagine I was high (mmol above 10) for a majority of the time. If/when I did do an injection into a ‘good’ site this would bring me back into range as I seemed to be injecting quite a large amount of M3, way more than what I needed in reality, 40 units twice a day. In today’s MDI terms that worked out to be 56 units of slow release a day and 24 units of fast acting…far too much insulin for a skinny teen!
I didn’t want to be seen as different, I hid T1 from my life as much as I could, I would only ever inject in private and didn’t want to know about it as much as I didn’t want people to know I had it. This really was a complete car crash in how to manage Type 1 Diabetes.
In my late teens and early 20s not a great deal had changed. I was still hiding my diabetes as much as I possibly could, and it was still affecting my life in a negative way. I would tell anybody who absolutely needed to know that I was Type 1 such as employers but apart from that I was still very shy and reclusive about talking about it, showing any sign of it in public or acting on it in public. I have way too many hypo stories from this age bracket and I’m going to explain a couple of the most ridiculous. I say ridiculous in the sense of looking back now and realising how different things could have been had I been more open about having Type 1 Diabetes, of course at that age I still wanted to be seen as ‘normal’, I was just the same as everybody else….I was invincible! Mentally I wasn’t strong enough to accept I had diabetes. When I was around 19 years old a good friend of mine was managing the local Domino’s Pizza, he’d offered me some delivery work at weekends which was ideal for a bit of extra cash. I was getting on fine with these deliveries but recall one specifically. I was driving to do the delivery but suddenly realised my glucose was dropping very low and very quickly. I never carried any hypo treatments with me in those days, I didn’t want to be different and have people question why I was carrying sweets or glucose tablets. I was struggling to find the address for this delivery because I was going hypo and having no treatments on me the only option, I had was to start eating the delivery myself. I tucked into some of the breaded chicken wing type things which really are a terrible hypo treatment as they’re a very slow release carb and that’s just on the breaded part…I had no other option though it was a case of needs must! I waited around for a little while, found the address and delivered the food, I don’t believe any complaint was made about the box of chicken wings being a few short! Looking back that was an utterly absurd moment for myself as a human, I could have dealt with that so much easier if I’d had hypo treatments in my car or on me, still fighting that mental battle of not giving diabetes the respect it needs of course I didn’t take that easy option. Going into my 20s I still had battles with myself against diabetes. It became a battle, me verses it. I’d have hypos on nights out and am incredibly grateful to the wonderful group of friends I have around me as I’ve been helped on many occasion, I’d have hypos during games of football, I’d have hypos during work, to put it simply I could have a hypo any time through lack of care. It was type 1 diabetes that ‘thing’ I refused to accept. I’m sure during these times I had many, many hypers (high blood sugars) too but of course these are less noticeable and as I wasn’t prepared to give diabetes attention, I wasn’t testing so I wouldn’t know what my levels were. In my head I thought the way to ‘win’ verses diabetes was to simply ignore it! I’m very sorry to say that on three or four occasions I’d had hypos where ambulances had needed to be called and paramedics would ‘save’ me. I always apologised profusely to them once I’d come round and felt very guilty that tax payer money was being wasted on me purely because I wasn’t strong enough mentally to accept I had a condition which needed care from myself.
In my mid 20s I had attended the regular diabetic retinopathy screening (photos to look for potential nerve damage in the back of your eyes) at my local hospital and later received a letter to say that I had the very early stages of retinopathy. This was my first encounter with any potential complication from diabetes and I became very worried. My eyesight has always been very good so to receive that was a huge shock and a big wake-up call that I must now start taking care of my diabetes. Losing my sight at such a young age was something I didn’t even want to consider. I did some research online and spoke to some other T1s I’d found online who had had the same letter and was advised that it was nothing to worry about too much as it was a generic letter sent if you had even one slightly enlarged blood vessel in the back of your eye. All you can do is keep good control and things shouldn’t progress any further. This was my first engagement with the Diabetes Online Community (#GBdoc #doc) and I was so pleased that I’d done that. This was the first time I’d ever had any contact with any other person with Type 1 and it had helped me a lot, talking about diabetes was something I’d never done before.
Just after this I’d seen posts from a guy called Chris Bright looking for people who were Type 1 and also played football. This was ideal for me as I met both criteria massively. I was a Type 1 diabetic and a football nut! I’d messaged Chris a few times and discussed his plans with starting TDFC and was thrilled when there were enough people and interest for us all to meet in person over at the now base, University of Worcester. I was quite nervous and really wasn’t sure what to expect but set off early morning and got myself over to Worcester. There were around 19 in attendance and after some introductions in one of the meeting rooms we got into the sports hall and began a well-coached session. Other than a work colleague from my early 20s I’d never had a conversation with another T1 before let alone played football with one! This isn’t an over the top saying but this day felt like the first day of the rest of my life. I’d had so many conversations with so many different people about diabetes, something I’d never ever done before. I was no longer alone, I had a support network, there were other people out there just like me, they loved football and also had Type 1 Diabetes. There were also some sections of the media in attendance and I’d ended up doing an interview for the BBC which later appeared on their Facebook page! In the space of a day I’ve gone from seeing diabetes as the enemy, something I’d let hold me back in life both mentally and physically to engaging with it for the first time and speaking openly to a TV camera & journalist regarding it! The clip itself has had over 9,000 views which still shocks me to this day, you can catch it yourself here – https://www.facebook.com/bbcherefordandworcester/videos/2003662723039459/
Driving home from that session I felt so infused, I’d learnt so much, met some great people and taken in so much information about how I can manage my diabetes better. This started an overhaul for me with the condition. I was still on the mixed insulin, the same stuff I was given on diagnosis day 18 years ago and had now seen first-hand that life would be so much better changing this. I did this and noticed a difference immediately. My control was better, I was aware of new technologies to track blood glucose which made it easier to track hypos and generally manage my condition better. I genuinely could not speak highly enough of what this session did for me. For the first time ever, I was comfortable being diabetic. I would inject in public, I would talk and engage about the condition rather than just ignore it, I would seek to improve wherever I could. Anybody new coming into my life I would make aware very quickly that I was a Type 1 Diabetic, this really was a watershed moment for me. I’d now taken control of a condition which for many years had completely taken control of me.
We had further meet-ups and training sessions with The Diabetes Football Community and I loved these sessions, great friends were made amongst the group we and we all loved the fact we were in the company of other Type 1s. We were lucky enough to be able to represent the UK at DiaEuro in 2018 and 2019, I was very fortunate to be selected in both of these squads and that for me was incredible. I was now being selected on a national level for an international sporting competition for people with Type 1 Diabetes. Three years ago, I refused to accept I had the condition, now I’m representing my country with it! Spending a week in Bratislava in 2018 and a week in Kiev in 2019 with the squad competing for the UK helped my mental health massively. I was with other T1s 24/7, seeing how they lived their lives with the condition, what could I learn, what could I do differently as well as playing futsal and having a lot of fun.
To summarise my relationship with Type 1 Diabetes since getting involved with TDFC would be quite hard to put into words. I love football/futsal but it’s completely changed my life for the better regardless of the sport. I’m happy injecting anywhere now, I’ve done injections on the Tube platforms in London, I’ve done injections on planes, I’m completely open with everybody I know and meet about my diabetes and I discuss my diabetes. Friends I’ve had for 10-20 years plus have also commented on what a positive change it’s been for me. I’ve even had the privilege of meeting a younger Type 1, Ollie Carr and having a really good chat with him and his mum about the condition. If someone had told me four or five years ago I’d be publicly speaking about my diabetes and going around others houses to do the same I’d be shocked, I’m so pleased this happened though. It felt incredibly fulfilling to pass my knowledge and information on how I manage T1 and sports to a young family.
I’ve met many other T1s through the online community and also been involved in some T1 running events which is something I’ve really gotten into over the last year. I took part in an attempt via Paul Coker and OneBloodyDrop to break a world record for the most people with Type 1 Diabetes at the Swansea Half Marathon, I somehow finished the first finisher out of the Type 1’s with virtually no specific running training and this gave me a real boost to take up running more seriously. I’ve ran with other Type 1s outside of that event and met some other amazing people through running (as well as ran with amazing people!), my diabetes has never been so well controlled because of this too. If I’d never got involved with TDFC I’m not sure I would have taken up running too so it’s another massive positive for me.
To sum up I’m proud of who I am now, I’m proud that I control the condition rather than it controlling me and I’m very happy to have met so many amazing people through TDFC. If it was not for these people and having that community, I’m not sure I’d be here today. It’s given me opportunities I never thought I’d have but most of all it’s made me a better, healthier (both mentally and physically) person and that for me is absolutely priceless.
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: