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 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!!!
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.
In our third addition we share the thoughts of Jack O’Brien… Jack has a fresh outlook on the way Diabetes has impacted his life having been diagnosed quite recently! His account offers some great insight into how a newbie to type 1 Diabetes feels about the challenge of this condition coming into their life… No more words from us let Jack do the talking…
“First of all, I think I should point out that I am a relative newbie in the Diabetic world having only been Diagnosed 2 years ago today! (I wrote this on 6th Feb). DiaEuro was only the second time I was going to be away from home, and all the supposed safety that comes with that, since I was diagnosed.
To say I was nervous doesn’t really do it justice! I was fully aware that I was going to be spending the week with a group of people who have for the most part been Type 1 Diabetic for a long time. The fear or seeming like I don’t really know what I’m doing, or “messing up” all the time was playing on my mind because this was for me the first time I would be spending a prolonged period of time with other Diabetics. It’s funny how weird things like this can play on your mind! I was seriously still at a stage where I felt like it was only me who suffered from hypos because everyone else would have it under control!
The first morning we are there, we all go down to breakfast together as a squad to enjoy the spread of food that was being put on. It was this experience that alleviated all the pre concerns I had. Seeing most of us checking sugar levels and injecting insulin immediately eased my nerves. This was something that I found awkward to do beforehand.
Before you knew it, Diabetic chat was bouncing around the table. The same problems I found, others were also talking about. In a weird way, if felt so liberating! That sense of not being in something alone, that others have found ways to overcome similar situations and have come through them to find solutions was amazing for a newbie to hear.
You hear the phrase “trial and error” thrown around a lot when it comes to Diabetes, and I really understood that so much more after this journey. A corner was well and truly turned for me during this week. I am now playing sports more regularly, because I feel more confident. Understanding food on the day of playing football is something that is so important. Seeing other people using the Dexcom looked brilliant. Once I finished my trial run, I missed it so much that I signed up for 12 months.
The whole experience was invaluable to me. I learned more in that week than I would have done in years studying books and speaking to specialists. Seeing people who regularly play sport and manage their Diabetes gave me so many tips and ideas that I use myself now. There really is no better experience than experience itself.”
Thank you to Jack for sharing his thoughts on how TDFC has helped him and the UK DiaEuro team in particular. If you want to follow Jack on social media you can find him on Twitter @DalstonGooner … If you want to know what’s going on at Arsenal FC Jack’s your man to follow!!
It’s been a while since I got myself 5 or 10 minutes to write something for the blog but I felt my recent trip to the Diabetes Junior Cup was well worth finding it…
I thought to convey the trip I’d pose myself a few questions which helped me tell the story and purpose behind why I felt TDFC should reach out and connect with this event.
Where did you go?
So myself and Zak (One of the UK players from the DiaEuro team) flew to Dublin, Ireland to visit the Diabetes Junior Cup at the National sports centre in Blanchardstown. What a great facility that is by the way! So many sports located in one central location to support Ireland’s athletes and their international ambitions. It was a pleasure to visit…
When was it?
We were in Ireland from Thursday to Saturday over the UK bank holiday weekend at the end of August 2018.
Who did you meet?
Across the 48 hours we met a number of people involved in various different projects supporting people with Diabetes in the country. Firstly we met with Cathal, whom after seeing TDFC’s work with the UK all diabetes Futsal team that went to DiaEuro, is keen to replicate it and create a team for Ireland ready for the 2019 tournament. It was brilliant to see his enthusiasm for the idea and the inspiration that the UK team provided him. I really hope they can pull it off over there as it would be an amazing “friendly” rivalry to have between the UK & Ireland!
Secondly we met up with a Kate Gajewska and a group of type 1’s in downtown Dublin to chat about all things diabetes over some food and drinks. Sharing experiences with the condition are a form of therapy I find and if you can laugh about it whilst completely understanding what others are going through it diminishes the negativity of what Diabetes can do. It was really nice to catch up with Kate whom I know through the work of the League of DiAthletes (www.leagueofdiathletes.com) and it’s always great to hear new perspectives on the condition from a different, albeit similar, country and culture.
Lastly we had the Diabetes Junior Cup event day where we met some senior members of the Diabetes Ireland team whom gave up their Saturday to support this worthwhile cause. We had a brilliant opportunity to discuss the event, their plans for the future, our work and how people with Diabetes are supported in Ireland.
I have to say a massive thank you to everyone we met on the trip. We were made to feel very welcome! A special thank you to Kate who managed to give us more than our fair share of lifts around Dublin.
Why did you go?
The key reason we went was for the Junior Cup event which was designed to bring children with type 1 diabetes together to give them the opportunity to share their experience and make friends. Having lived with Type 1 for 19 years and not really shared what it was like for 17 of those years, I really wish I had sooner. This event was another perfect example of how we can provide peer support in the diabetes community.
Not only was it good for the kids to come together they got to have a lot of fun too! But I’m sure it was also beneficial for parents to discuss with others the stresses of supporting a child with the condition. Having this kind of event is a wonderful representation of how the community comes together to help each other.
With such a close link to what we do at The Diabetes Football Community I felt it was really important we were there to learn, network and support such a fantastic football event for people with Diabetes. The learning and friends we made whilst there will hopefully lead to promising future collaborations and events for the benefit of children, parents and adults living with Diabetes who share our passion for Football!
It was also great to be able to give our Irish friends an idea of what it took to get the UK diabetes Futsal team off the ground during the time we were there, in the hope that they can replicate that for next year! Fingers crossed we will be competing against each other in the near future!
If you want to check out myself and Zak’s story on the day head over to the below link:
What does the future look like as a result of your trip…?
The hope is that through developing links with this event and Diabetes Ireland (www.diabetes.ie ), TDFC may in future be in a position to put on this kind of event in the UK for children with type 1 Diabetes. As always it takes a great deal of organisation and support to get something like this off the ground but we’re hoping that the community will support us in trying to make a football participation camp/tournament for children with diabetes happen.
If anyone in the community would like to support us in trying to make this happen in 2019 please do get in touch via our email address:
Well… What a journey that was! I think it surpassed all of our expectations from a management, coaching and playing perspective and I couldn’t be prouder of how everyone equipped themselves with the whole experience.
With this blog I wanted to let the players share their thoughts on what DiaEuro meant to them and I’ll share mine in another post at a later date!
So over to some of the lads to tell you about it…
Tim Ward, our Goalkeeper and most improved player who played a pivotal role in our first win against Romania shares his thoughts:
Tim Ward – UK Goalkeeper
“Christmas 2017, my wife is surfing social media and shows me a post by TDFC asking for players for the first ever UK type one Diabetic Futsal team. “Sounds brilliant, wish this had been around 20 years ago I’d be all over that”. My wife being my wife tells me to stop being negative (You’re 42 not 102) and sent my details to Chris Bright (I think she had half completed the form before I actually agreed to do it)!
To cut a long story short here I am eight months later saying (with a massive amount of pride and a massive smile on my face) that I was part of the first UK Futsal team to compete at DiaEuro. What a journey it has been and the 8 days we spent in Slovakia were an emotional rollercoaster. The highest high being our first win against Romania (previous champions).
What a feeling, what a moment in life. The team talks pre match, then the UK chant, followed by singing the national anthems (out of time haha) and definitely out of tune were moments I’ll never forget. Then there was the game itself, I was nervous but growing in confidence as the team began to put the Romanians under pressure, the goals, the shared joy, the celebrating. I was part of that. Let me just say that again so I can believe it, I was part of that. I am an International futsal player who’s played at a European Championships.
I have memories that money cannot buy. I have laughed until my jaw ached, I am (in a bad Italian accent) “Big Brother” to the Italian team and we sang Karaoke with the Portuguese team (Ai Se Eu Te Pego, have a listen to it as it’s the tune of the tournament). I have friends for life. I have pride and love for a group of people, who 8 months ago I did not know but through a shared condition, that has not stopped any one of us, it’s actually brought us together and given me an opportunity to represent my condition and my country.
I have lived the dream, cheers every one of you”
Make sure you check out this save from Tim to keep the score at 0-0 in our first win vs Romania… Incredible for a man who isn’t a regular goalkeeper!
Next up are the comments from our anchor and Manager’s player of the tournament, Zak Brown who played the most minutes of anyone from the UK team in the tournament:
Zak Brown – UK Anchor
“I break into a smile every time I think back to the DiaEuro experience with team UK. On the court and in preparation for the games, we did everything we could to succeed despite having the least futsal experience of the nations in our group. I was delighted to pick up two wins across the tournament and run some fantastic futsal players close in our first attempt.
Off the court, team spirits were kept high as we socialised as a group, talking about our common ground of football, managing diabetes and generally joking around with each other as any team on tour would do!
I am excited to see what the future brings with TDFC. One thing is for sure, the foundations have been laid. With more exposure to our growing community and more people on board to help, I hope for many more experiences like this in years to come!”
And lastly but by no means least, we have our captain, pivot and joint top goalscorer, Jon Tyrrell (JT) with his in depth perspective of the tournament:
Jon Tyrrell (JT) – Pivot & Captain
“It was such an incredible tournament. To see so many top quality players from 17 different countries, all united around the same difference of having to live and play sport with diabetes was inspiring.
When I heard there was an all diabetic UK futsal team being put together I couldn’t believe it – futsal has been one of my biggest passions since I discovered the game on a football tour of Spain in 2007.
It was an honour to find out I’d be captaining the first UK team to enter the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes. We’d been drawn into a really tough group – many referred to as the group of death – with high-flyers Russia, Portugal and Italy.
Leading the team out alongside the Azzurri for our first game was really special, knowing you’re representing 4million people from the UK who live every day with diabetes.
It was to be only the second time a number of the guys had played futsal at all, and in front of a couple of hundred onlookers keen to see whether this UK futsal team would be the tournaments whipping boys. I think our nerves got the better of us a bit and we found ourselves 3-0 down at half time against a very strong Italy team featuring a couple of professional football and futsal players. But in the second half we came back strong, showing some grit to win the second half 2-1 and lose the game 4-2.
After an outstanding performance against Russia – holding them to 1-1 with only 5min to go – before eventually losing 2-1, we were taught a bit of a futsal lesson from Portugal who went on to beat us 6-1. That meant we were in the bottom half of the draw for places 9-17th and would face 2015 champions Romania in our next game – another really tough match.
The way we played against Romania was simply outstanding. To dictate the play and create the number of chances we did as well as looking strong at the back and keeping a clean sheet was something we were all so proud of. A brace from Brighty giving us a 2 goal lead to defend as Romania switched to the fly keeper.
Our 5th game against last year’s finalists Hungary ended up being our last game of the week. 0-0 at half time the game could have gone either way but a strong second half from Hungary and clever long ball play out from the back meant we were unpicked on a number of occasions. Another lesson to learn for next year, this time against a well worked 2-2 box formation.
From my perspective a massive thanks has to go to the coaching staff and players – to assemble and teach a futsal team to play against opposition of that calibre, from only a handful of training sessions demonstrates the ability of our coaches and players alike.
For me the main thing I’ll take from this week was the character from our players and staff. There was an incredible team spirit amongst us – everyone was learning fast and being thrown in at the deep end. I think we all had a lot of fun throughout the highs and lows you face during a tournament with 5-6 intense games in a week. Everyone contributed in their own way both on and off the court.
Our goalkeeper Tim deserves a special mention as some of the saves he pulled off – one in particular v Romania at 0-0 was quite outstanding for someone who’d not previously played as a futsal keeper before.
Also a massive thanks to the Slovakian hosts and everyone who helped put on this year’s DiaEuros. What a week! I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited to build on this for next year.”
JT also pulled together the below video of some of our on court action… (All of the goals except for the Italy game)
I’d like to say a massive thank you to our players, coaching staff, sponsors ( Havas Lynx , Dexcom & Gluco ) and the organisers for everything they supported with at the tournament.
As well as the people who supported us in Slovakia we must also say a massive thank you to the people from the UK who supported us, shared our story and continue to back the work of The Diabetes Football Community as we wouldn’t be creating projects like this if it wasn’t for all of you!!!
We will continue to demonstrate that Diabetes is just another hurdle to jump, not a mountain to climb and that as a community, together we’re stronger!
The Full Team from left to right….. Back: Jon Rosser, Ryan Bampfield, Scott Burrell, Tim Ward, Toby McCauley, Paul McHugh (Coach) Front: Jon Tyrrell, Shane Peckover, Chris Bright (Manager), Harley Jean Simpson (Assistant Coach), Jack O’Brien, Bryn White, Zak Brown, Jahna Drunis (Physiotherapist)
Well here we are!!! It’s 3 days until we play our first match and after months of talking about this momentous project, it’s happening this weekend. The UK will be represented at the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes, for the very first time ( DiaEuro 2018 , www.diaeuro.org ).
I wake up every day feeling privileged to have started The Diabetes Football Community and to be leading projects like this…. They make all the difference to the people who interact with us and seek us out for support. I hope that our endeavours continue to provide comfort, inspiration and a smile for all those who share in the challenges of Diabetes on a daily basis… We want to prove that this condition holds no boundaries for those living with it as long as we achieve good management. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s important we attempt to provide positive news stories for those with the condition when much negativity, ignorance and stereotyping is still evident throughout the media and society in the United Kingdom.
With so much going on I’ve found it very challenging to write anything on the blog for a while so it’s nice to find just an hour to share some thoughts ahead of DiaEuro and talk about our camp on the 14th of July.
The day was all about bringing the squad together to get to know each other, enhance their tactical and technical understanding of Futsal and ultimately play their first ever game as a squad. For me, all of those things were achieved and more. The team really did surpass all of our expectations as a management team and with expectations for us at DiaEuro low, I’ll be encouraging the boys to just go and give a good account of ourselves, with a smile on our faces. The tournament isn’t all about winning (try telling our squad that!), because it’s also about raising awareness of type 1 diabetes, its challenges and trying to develop greater levels of support across Europe for those living with it. As a collective we can’t wait to participate in this wonderful event and win, lose or draw it’s an incredible opportunity for all of us to represent our condition firstly and our nation secondly at this tournament.
We’d set out a jam packed day where the guys needed to arrive at the university of Worcester at 8:45am (Sorry lads!) as we wanted to spend the morning developing their tactical knowledge before implementing it in our friendly in the afternoon. Myself and Paul had come up with a plan on Friday for delivery and having seen how the team performed in the friendly we were absolutely chuffed that they’d taken on the knowledge we’d shared with them as that’s all you want from a coach’s perspective!
Alongside the hectic morning of coaching, Harley and Jahna were also busy planning their sessions for our lunch time break. Harley wanted to deliver a session specifically aimed at team cohesion and bringing the squad closer together ahead of the European championships, whilst Jahna wanted to capture some more in depth information from a medical perspective about the squad. This gave the lads an opportunity to catch a break!! They also got the chance to come and collect their matchday kit and tracksuits from me!! I think this was one of the parts they were most excited about having had a preview over social media… I think the kit looks great and thank you to www.movingforwardsports.co.uk for supplying us with it.
After all that we were lucky enough to get into our first match, which was a resounding success and we came away with such positivity! A massive thank you to our opponents, Duncan our referee and the university of Worcester for hosting this momentous occasion for us…
Now we move onto Saturday the 21st of July 2018… The day it all begins. The journey and the tournament await and we’re soooo excited.
My hope is that this team inspires people across the UK whom may be newly diagnosed or finding life with type 1 diabetes tough to think it is possible, the condition doesn’t have to stand in your way and that no matter what barrier it puts in front of us we can overcome it!
11 men all living with Type 1 Diabetes, pulling on a shirt to represent a condition and a country……. To know we’ve set about bringing that to life fills me with so much pride I find it hard to explain.
As it’s the end of #DiabetesWeek I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a blog about the completion of my 2017/18 season… A season of complete contrasts!
July 2017… As pre – season begins for most players and clubs involved in Football, I was in a plaster cast contemplating how this had all played out. Two 5th metatarsal fractures in 6 months and an operation later and I was staring down another 2 months until I could walk again, let alone run! The worst injury I’d experienced in my sporting career.
But anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t give up in the face of a challenge… This was a hard one but I was up for it!
The season was well underway by the time I could walk again on the 1st of September but after months of crutching around the local gym and using a handbike to do cardio, I was just so pleased to be back on 2 feet again. The key with injuries like this I’ve found is to celebrate the small wins as you progress towards your old self again… If you don’t give yourself the recognition of improvement it’s going to be a really hard mental and physical battle!
It wasn’t long after walking again that I was given the all clear to do some light jogging, which was a huge step in my mind, as I put some serious stress on the bone for the first time since the op. With any injury that keeps you out for this period of time the deterioration in muscle strength in your whole leg is a massive problem to also overcome as well as the concern for the injury itself. I had a LOT of rehabilitation work to do but as I was accepted onto the Sports Scholarship scheme at the University of Worcester (www.worc.ac.uk) I knew I was going to have access to great facilities and people to support me on this journey back.
After 5 – 6 weeks of strength and conditioning, constant physiotherapy and some Futsal training sessions with the university futsal club, things looked to be progressing nicely in October. I was getting used to my team mates, new surroundings at the university and the demands of the sport on my body again. I enjoyed it but things were painful… I spent a lot of the first 2/3 months in pain playing as my foot was weak and the muscles supporting it weren’t much stronger!
The first game back was towards the end of October, and when I say game, I mean 2 minutes on court just to see how things felt!! That’s the beauty of Futsal, you can roll on and roll off quickly with substitutions… It felt alright but I think it was a false sense of reality as I was still a long way off at this stage! There’s a lot of fear when you’re coming back after a torrid time which is hard to explain, naturally the body just tries to protect it so you move in a way which is not efficient or conducive of high performance. It took a good 2/3 months to get over this and I’d argue I’m still not fully there!!!
As things progressed and improved, I returned to my first national team Futsal camp in November 2018, almost a year after breaking my foot on international duty. It was a great moment for me to see the lads again after spending so much time on the sidelines… I knew it was a tough ask to compete with the boys and their levels having only been able to run for just over a month and still playing in pain. Despite this I felt I gave a good account of myself but ultimately I didn’t have the fitness and games in the tank to really challenge for a place in the Wales Home Nations squad in 2017 as I narrowly missed out. Tough to take but understandable.
But whilst the Wales boys were playing in Edinburgh, I had the opportunity to attend the England Universities Trials in London. Another great opportunity to push myself against good players and towards my ultimate goal of full fitness and playing at the levels I knew I could achieve. It was a hard session considering where I was at in terms of fitness but I was really glad I did it. It ultimately led to selection in the squad later that month which was great! The management of my glucose levels and getting them right for games/occasions was now starting to become important again as I was more involved whilst playing more and more game time. You’d think the old ways would work?! A year after the last time I played sport at that level and my body certainly didn’t play ball!! My levels were shooting up to levels I’d not seen at a Futsal game before and crashing more dramatically than I remembered. I think there’s a certain amount of trial and error in everything we do as Type 1’s but it’s about reducing the number of errors we make that will allow us to enjoy our sport. For a good couple of months I made plenty!
As the festive season approached I also took the decision to get back to playing Football. I’d missed it and it was time to use the sport to help me get fit in December and January as the Futsal season tends to go quiet at that time. My old manager Quentin Townsend had inquired about my fitness a month or two earlier and I’d put it off to ensure my body was in a good enough place to cope with Football when I finally said yes! I signed for Pershore Town FC and played my first football match in 20 months on 19th December 2017 in a friendly vs Worcester City FC.
Before I knew it I’d played in 3 games in a week and it was like I hadn’t been away! There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end but I was just pleased to get back out there again. I’ve got to say a big thanks to the lads who made it so easy for me to fit into the squad half way through the season and enjoy the second half of it. If I’m honest the transition with my Diabetes back into Football was much easier than with Futsal… Because I’ve played Football for a lot longer it feels a little more natural in terms of the routine I go through to manage type 1, so there was only really 1 and a half games from the 16 appearances I made where I’d say things weren’t quite right!
I spent a lot of time learning about how to manage my diabetes around sport again… 12 months away is a long time and plenty of things change during that time.
But as I moved into 2018 things were looking really promising following the call up to the England Universities squad and with regular weekly game time. This was huge! I was playing a 90 minute game on a Saturday and then playing Futsal on a Sunday for about 4/5 weeks on the bounce and after that I was flying into the business end of the season.
My season was all about pushing myself in Futsal and enjoying the game time in football. I wanted to come out of the season with some silverware with the university team with both the league and cup in our grasp. As we negotiated our semi final with a really tight 9-8 win vs a well drilled Loughborough 2’s team, I had a cup final to prepare for as well as a north vs south challenge cup as part of the England Universities squad.
Unfortunately we were unable to chase down the league title after a couple of disappointing results which meant we finished up as runners up in our division but we still had the cup to play for.
To go from that cup final and into the North vs South challenge cup just a couple of weeks later was absolutely class and well timed… I could feel I was on a roll and feeling good, so for me it was great to see the good form continue as I ended up as the top goal scorer in the tournament and with a Team South win 9-3 across the two games (6-2 & 3-1). I was finally able to show my ability as a result of the body being closer to a state which could showcase it! After this tournament and a couple of good results with Pershore, I pretty much knew the only meaningful game left in my season was the annual varsity ding dong derby between the University of Worcester and the University of Gloucestershire.
Varsity is a big deal for the students at the university you represent and winning the game you’re involved in is all that matters in the month of April! Luckily for us we entered the game in good form and were really confident that if our big players turned up we’d win the game… So it turned out to be the case. We ran out 8-3 winners and the team played a really good game in which we controlled it from the start to finish. It was a cracking way to finish the season off and undoubtedly contributed to the way we were rewarded at the end of season awards night…
The University 1st team were given the “Team of the Year” award for our cup and league exploits, whilst my individual contribution to those performances and my representation of the university with the England universities squad led to me being awarded “Male Athlete of the Year”. An award I didn’t feel worthy enough of winning but one I was extremely grateful and very lucky and proud to have received! When last year’s winner was an Olympian and former commonwealth champion Matt Hudson-Smith (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Hudson-Smith), you can see why I didn’t feel like I wasn’t worthy of this level of recognition haha! Incredible all the same though…
I honestly couldn’t be prouder to have ticked all of that off this season, despite not actually being 100% at any point. The key was that after all that time away from the sport I found my love for it again, the smile on my face was back when I played and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed playing like I did in 2017/18, since I was a kid. Sometimes the adversity can set you up for what’s next and I think the injury taught me a lot about fun and enjoyment that maybe I was missing beforehand!
I think this line sums up the approach I’ve taken over the last season and one in which I’ll try to continue for the rest of my playing career:
“Train like it’s the most important thing in the world, play like you couldn’t care less!”
However, one thing that I wanted to finish on surrounding Diabetes… After 12 months of being injured and focussing on my Diabetes more and more my Hba1c was 50 but as I returned to playing it went back up to 64… A really challenging question is…. What’s more important? I was called up to the England Universities squad, scored 5 goals in a cup final winning performance, won varsity and I won male athlete of the year at my university, yet my Diabetes control was worse. There’s no doubt my sport, the demands on my body and the responses my glucose levels have to exercise complicate overall control of the condition as my intensities of exercise differ so drastically!
I’d love to have some feedback on this… Because I honestly don’t know the answer but my choices have always involved enjoying life experiences over prioritising perfect Diabetic control but I’d love to hear what you think…
Finally I’d just like to thank a number of people who’ve supported me hugely throughout this season, my family for your continued support, to Dan Allen (https://www.instagram.com/da_training_and_performance/), Jamie Harrison and Marc Scriven for their strength and conditioning support, to Sally Smith and Lewis Miller for putting me back together each week with their sports therapy support, to the University for their providing great facility access and lastly to my teammates and coaches who’ve made me feel welcome and whom have played well so often this season! We win and lose as a team….
All in all a progressive season after one of the hardest periods of my sporting career with so much to look forward to in the 2018/19 season!
Hi guys, just thought I’d write a blog post reflecting on my experience at the #SporT1Day conference that happened on the 13th May. The conference gave the chance for several speakers including myself, to cover a range of topics that impact type 1 diabetes. I wanted to write this post to share my opinions about the day whilst I also wanted to give a little summary of my talk for those who missed it.
So my thoughts on the day…. I think Chris and Paul Coker did a great job at making sure the day ran smoothly. There were a couple of hurdles to jump over such as the fire alarm going off during Paul’s talk. Despite a couple of things like this happening Chris and Paul managed to keep the day running nicely. One thing that really stood out to me was the variety of speakers at the conference. The speakers included professional athletes, women, diabetic nurses and people who had lived with the condition for over 60 years. It was great to see such a diverse line up which resulted in a wide range of experiences being shared. The take home message for me was that type 1 management is very much an individual thing. Therefore, it’s important to find out what works for you. This requires you to experiment and constantly keep learning what works and what doesn’t. The other great result of such a diverse line up was the breadth of topics covered. As there were so many different topics I think everyone could come away with something they found interesting. Topics ranged from management tips, to nutrition, psychology and some stories of inspiration. It’s a real credit to Chris and Paul for being able to put together such a great line up. The last thing I’ll say about the speakers is that hearing their stories has been invaluable to me. As someone who does not have type 1 diabetes I am constantly working hard to understand what people go through as best I can. So learning more about the condition from other personal experiences of type 1 is really important. I can’t thank people enough for sharing their stories with me.
The previous point leads nicely into my own talk. I’m not going to recap it all here but I will write a post in the future that gives you guys some more detail. So, the main points of my talk. Diabetes has been viewed for the longest time as a medical condition; which of course it is. However, from the perspective of someone that lives with the condition it’s much more. It’s a 24/7 job that you didn’t ask for but have to do. It’s a condition that requires you to make constant decisions. As a result, how you think and feel impact how you manage the condition. This being the case, what you put in your head is as important as what you put in your body. However, psychology support is an underused resource for people with type 1 and I’m really passionate about changing that. The psychological load of managing type 1 daily and during sport or exercise is heavy and psychological skills training can help you cope with the load. As I’m conscious about making this an overly long read I’ll expand on this in my next psych series. Before I finish, I’d like to briefly mention the main part of my talk which was self-compassion. In a nutshell self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself like you would treat a loved one. When they experience difficulties, do you criticize them? Do you constantly remind them how rubbish they are? Or do you try and understand that this is a difficult time for them? Do you try your best to help them move past the difficulty? My take home message to the people in the audience was that Type 1 is a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. When you experience tough times, try and treat yourself with the compassion you would treat a loved one. If you wouldn’t say it to a close friend, don’t say it to yourself.
After months of behind the scenes work from myself, Ferenc Nagy and the wonderful Andrewartha family, who star in the documentary, we have now finally launched the #WalkInOurBoots campaign to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes in Football.
TDFC wanted to showcase what life was like for a young footballer living with the condition and its effect on his family. This campaign is a “real world” example of the challenges and daily routines this condition forces upon people who were dealt this card in life.
I found parts of this documentary very emotional to watch, as someone who lives with the condition, I feel every word they say. I hope the emotion and management implications of Type 1 Diabetes are captured, to ensure we can continue to challenge the powers that be to help change perceptions within society and ultimately improve inclusivity for people living with the condition in our sport.
I hope you enjoy…. PLEASE SHARE AS FAR AND AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.