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.
I’m Jon Rosser, 27 years old from Bristol and have been a type 1 diabetic for 17 years. Being involved with TDFC has enabled me to link up with other diabetics of varying ages and share our experiences, however this is often very focussed on the present – what we arecurrentlydoing, learning or going through. Reading these blogs, I found gaining an insight into these people’s pasts and hearing of their journey has been really enlightening and valuable, even for someone who has already learned to an extent how to live with the condition. So the obvious next step was to try and somehow put down my story outlining the changes it has made to my life and the lessons I’ve learned in the hope that others can take something from it like I have done. So here goes…
My journey starts with diagnosis at the age of 10 and the very familiar story of the tell tale signs. I was always thirsty! I didn’t really notice this symptom but my dad whose late mother was a Type 1 noticed I was increasingly up and down to the kitchen tap, filling up pint glasses of water and knocking them back like no tomorrow. As a result of this I was back and forth to the toilet and it didn’t take long for him to step in. Looking back at it now I suppose I was quite fortunate that my dad noticed this going on and intervened pretty early as I can’t actually remember feeling too bad! He made me do a urine sample and booked me into the doctors. A quick ketone test and finger prick confirmed what my dad had feared and arrangements were made for me to forget about going back to school, pack a bag and get to the hospital. Being a 10 year old I can remember feeling a bit oblivious to what was actually going on, but I knew that something had ultimately shifted by the way my dad had reacted, he seemed gutted and spoke to me about how we were going to go about telling my mum when we got home. I had never even heard of diabetes and was still completely naive about what was to come.
A few hours later I was at Southmead Hospital being admitted into the children’s ward. A flurry of nurses were showing me my bed, where the toilets were, where the common room was, a full on tour of the facilities and this was the point where I kind of started to realise that I was here to stay for a while and this whole situation was going to be the start of something that was going to change my life forever. I was on this ward for 5 days and during this time I had to learn the skills that would ultimately keep me alive. One event that sticks in my mind from this period was when a 16 year old boy got rushed into the booth next to me. Other kids on the ward were all chatting to their neighbours so I welcomed a new face to hopefully ease the boredom. However on admission his curtains were shut and I remember feeling that the nurses were actively discouraging me from trying to say hello, and no sooner had he arrived he was gone again. I didn’t find out until years later that this guy was also a diabetic and had not woken up one morning due to having a serious hypo during the night. Looking back now I realise it was the right call not to let a newly diagnosed 10 year old get wind of this! The ward had a classroom where I spent a few hours a day which was nice as it got me out of my bed, but I remember being pulled out at regular intervals to be finger pricked and stuck with syringes and this was another point where I started to realise this was going to be the new normal from now on, and I didn’t like it one bit. How was this going to work at my own school? What about at football? I was bang into scouts at this age so how will I go on the camps? Can I even still do all these things? The answer of course was yes, but the anxiety and worry about all of this was something I will always remember.
Fast forward a bit and I’d settled into my new routines, teachers and coaches had all been really engaged in making things as easy as possible for me. But it wasn’t all plain sailing by any means. I was initially put on the 2 injections a day regime and it wasn’t long before I felt frustrated at the restrictions of this, especially when transitioning to secondary school. Having to inject my insulin at the same time morning and evening, and knowing I HAD to also eat at these times each day meant things such as after school sports fixtures, clubs, and even just hanging out with friends would all have to be arranged around my insulin and meals. It took so much planning and at times I found it exhausting and stressful.
I want to shift the focus largely on how I’ve dealt with my diabetes within football and sport and I guess I’ve never let it stop me, but there have been times when I felt it has hindered me. At the age of 15 I joined Forest Green Rovers from just previously playing local junior football, and the training stepped up which was great! But it was a much more competitive environment and although to a certain extent I had always tried to keep my condition under wraps (which seems to be a common theme from guys writing these blogs), in this environment I found myself doing this even more. I didn’t want to show any weakness and felt an obligation to keep up with the standards being set, often not recognising that in order to do this I needed to take time out of sessions to take on sugar or test my levels. Occasionally this led me to playing on through hypos and my standards suffered as a result. Sometimes coaches and players would confuse my hypo reactions with being lazy or uninterested, and I found trying to explain what was actually going on sounded like excuses. The fact I was still on the 2 injections a day meant that I would get home from school, have to hastily eat a carby meal (to avoid going low during training) before heading straight off to train on a full stomach which personally my body did not deal well with – I’d feel heavy and slow. It was the same with the games – we played in a floodlit league so fixtures would be midweek evenings so my preparations would never be ideal. These pressures ultimately led me to change onto the basal bolus regime and immediately after I did that I saw the benefits, not just with my football but with my day to day life. The flexibility was something I’d been longing for and I continued to play for 2 more successful seasons at Forest Green, winning individual awards at presentations and I remember feeling really proud and realising at this point that I had gotten the upper hand on my diabetes and vowed to never let it beat me.
Another event that always sticks out to me as a time where I felt I overcame the urge to keep quiet and let my diabetes win was in a tennis tournament when I was about 17. Over the course of about 6 weeks I had played a match every week and got through to the final without any diabetes related issues. In this final however I struggled from the start. There were a fair few people watching and I was putting my performance down to nerves and threw away the first set in record time. On the switch around I asked the umpire for 10 minutes just to check my sugars which for me at the time took a lot of courage, I was 3.1. I remember sitting there in front of the crowd openly testing my sugars and taking on food which is something at that age I always felt really self conscious doing. My opponent was getting restless as were his supporters watching on but I stabilised my levels and got back out there… I smashed him in the next 2 sets to win the tournament. Like I said this was a real moment of realisation that I could achieve things in sport regardless of having this condition and getting dealt hypos, and it gave me confidence to keep aiming high.
The next major milestone for me was gaining a place at Plymouth University. Leaving the family home to move to a new city with new people, new surroundings and new routines was pretty daunting, and when you throw diabetes into the mix it was quite a challenge. I was having to shop and cook for myself and it took a while for me to get used to having full responsibility for what I put into my body in order to maintain good control of my condition. Students’ diets are notoriously not the best so resisting the urge to follow examples of quick, convenient, often high sugar and high carb meals set by my new found friends was important and something I’m glad I focussed on, as it set me up well to continue to control my diabetes successfully. I quickly got involved with the Uni football club and was playing regularly, although the routines and rituals of a university football club were much different to what I was used to. One thing I struggled with was the fact that if we’d win on a Wednesday afternoon (and often even when we lost!) after the game it was shirt and tie and straight to the bars. A lot of these guys wouldn’t take time out to eat post match, and especially after a good win, wouldn’t go home until the next morning. Being diabetic, I felt a bit of a kill joy having to temporarily leave a buzzing group of lads for a few hours to go and get some food of substance and make sure I recovered well in terms of glucose levels, especially when there was alcohol involved! This was a small price to pay though as I found if I put my diabetes first, I would have a much better time celebrating later on knowing I’d done what I needed to do in order for my sugars to behave (as well as they could) during a night out in Plymouth’s finest establishments. These were some of my best times playing football, the social side of the club was immense and winning a varsity and a cup in my 3 years at Plymouth are things I remember for the achievements and not how my diabetes hindered me!
The most recent landmark in my footballing life has most definitely been getting involved with TDFC. I remember turning up to the first session and experiencing an environment where everyone there would openly discuss the condition, openly test their sugars and inject insulin, there was an underlying bond straight away. I had been so used to dealing with diabetes in a changing room and on a pitch on my own – it was solelymyproblem, and to feel that problem shared by everyone else there was so refreshing. No feeling guilty for taking time out to test sugars, no strange looks for sticking a needle in my arm, just a feeling of understanding and support. I have played in both DiaEuro tournaments that the UK team has entered in Bratislava and Kiev, and both times were amazing experiences. Playing against some top nations and top players gives you that drive to improve and I feel since being introduced to Futsal (which I had never played before TDFC) I have learned and improved my game as well as my control of my diabetes. I have also found myself transitioning skills I’ve learnt from Futsal into my 11-a-side game which is great! I’ve also found my Saturday team mates have taken a real interest in what I’ve been involved with regarding TDFC, seeing it on my social media and things like that. One of the lads has even adopted a pre match ritual of eating glucose tablets with me before kick off and now swears by it!
So that’s my story (so far!) of my life, football and sport with type 1 diabetes. My message to anyone maybe struggling to adapt to life and sport with diabetes is not to hide it, be open and honest about the problems you may encounter, it’s not a weakness! Although it presents challenges I feel diabetes has made me stronger in many ways, especially with discipline and will power… so keep at it!
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.
A day that I remind myself to thank the great Sir Frederick Banting for the gift he gave me, a chance to continue living my life despite being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. His co-creation of Insulin in the 1920’s has saved millions of lives, including my own, from a life cut short by this condition. This day is about you my friend, as we celebrate your birthday and the gift you gave us.
With that extra time you’ve given me, I hope I’ve done you proud. I’ve done my best to defy the pitfalls of Diabetes and use the experiences I’ve worked hard for and been fortunate enough to have, to help others that share this condition with me. I feel that your gift to us all is one I won’t overlook or take lightly, and if I can gift anything back to others like me, then I will at least be living in a way which befits your legacy. I know I’m lucky I’m still here, with the developments of science, and in particular the incredible NHS, to thank for the life I’m able to live in 2019. Others round the world still aren’t as lucky as we are here in the UK and I’ll always be grateful for what we have.
Through the work of TDFC, the honour of representing my country within Futsal and my advocacy work for the condition, I hope I do what I can to ensure the time I’ve been given back is not wasted. I’m able to live a life which I decide upon, not my condition, which is all thanks to you, Sir Frederick Banting. There is another person I want to talk about though today…
A man whom I’ve rarely mentioned publicly when talking about Diabetes is my grandfather who also lived with Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 21 in 1956 and lived 40 years with type 1 before he died in 1997. 40 years of living with the condition whilst having only the use of animal insulin and without the medical support/devices we have nowadays to help us control it. I think to do that was pretty amazing and even though we met for just a short period in my life, I’m just glad I got the chance. A man with an incredible story, who defied the odds more so than I have in my opinion, that I wish I’d have had the chance to get to know more. I was very young at the time of his passing and at this point I hadn’t been diagnosed with Type 1. I’m grateful he never saw a day where I was diagnosed with the condition (My Mum is too!) , which had potentially passed on a generation to me, because I know he’d have been devastated. But more than ever I wish he’d have seen the work that has been done through The Diabetes Football Community. In the face of what we both lived with, I’ve tried to tread a positive path, which I’m hoping many others can follow. I know he will have been extremely proud of this project and I’m sure he’s looking down smiling upon it all from wherever he is.
I wanted to talk about both of these men, whom never knew I lived with Type 1 Diabetes, because of the lasting impact that they have had on my life. A day of remembering Sir Frederick Banting felt like the right time to remember my Grandad too. A day full of positivity surrounding Diabetes that I want to dedicate to them both.
My life now consists of ensuring I do them both proud by ensuring I live a life full of positive experiences, whilst sharing the journey and helping others with the condition fulfil their potential in sport. If I can do that I’ll be a happy guy and I think they would be too. I’ve now lived with the condition half as long as my Grandad did, with this year marking 20 years. I hope by the time I hit 40 years since my diagnosis, diabetes will be something we remembered we lived with not something we continue to.
So what’s my lasting message for World Diabetes Day?
Be grateful for what we have, treat the time we have as a gift and don’t let Diabetes define the way you live your life. See it as an extra hurdle to jump not a mountain to climb.
This one is for you Grandad & Sir Frederick Banting…. I hope I’ve done your legacies proud.
If you want to see an incredibly inspiring story from Katie McLean who’s sharing her story publicly with us for the first-time head to the below link:
And make sure you don’t forget to pick up your tickets to #SporT1Day this Sunday at the University of Worcester (17th November 2019)… We still have a few left and you can get your hands on them on the below link:
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:
At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the storiesofthose of you who follow us. With the diverse nature of the community we support it’s always amazing to share stories from all over the world. So here we are bringing you a story from Kendall who’s based in the USA. No morewords from usother than to say if you enjoyed reading Kendall’s blog please give it a share. Over to you Kendall…..
“My name is Kendall Higgs, I’m from Loxahatchee, Florida , and I’m 20 years old. I fell in love with the game of soccer at four years old. I remember feeling unstoppable with the ball at my feet. On August 3rd, 2009 my world changed. I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 10 years old. The first three questions I would ask anyone who came into my hospital room was 1. Can I still play soccer 2. Can I still drink milk 3. Am I going to die.. in that order 😂 to some people, my priorities may have been a little off.. but for me, if I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I might as well be dead. Even though most doctors told me I most likely couldn’t continue to play, I did it anyways. I refused to allow something to take over my life. I traveled to Costa Rica at 14 and Brazil at 16 to play soccer with region 3 ODP (Olympic Development Program)
I graduated early from high school and went to University of Pittsburgh in 2017. After 3 semesters there I transferred and now play at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Soccer has been my way to connect to people, to new places, and to different cultures. When I’m not playing soccer, I feel out of place.. and at first my T1D contributed to that “out of place” feeling. I didn’t want to embrace my Diabetes..I wanted to pretend I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to take care of myself and to fully embrace my disease. I recently started T1D1 Diabetic Athletes as a way to spread awareness, give a platform to other diabetic athletes, and to show young, aspiring T1D athletes that it does not limit, control, or lessen their ability to be successful.
Within this journey I have realized that soccer isn’t my only way to connect to people.. T1D has allowed me to connect to others battling the same illness, to learn, to empower, and so much more. I am so grateful to be apart of the T1D community.”
A big thank you from all of us at TDFC for sharing your story Kendall and if anyone else would like to share theirs please get in touch !
As the motto for Diabetes Week 2019 is “See Diabetes Differently” it’s great to be able to share an interview that Chris conducted with DigiBete (www.digibete.org) which focusses upon mindset and the approach to sport/exercise that he takes in the hope it may help others living with Diabetes. It’s different to the usual articles/content on the physical management of the condition for sport but we hope it proves to be useful!
A huge thank you to DigiBete for asking Chris and putting the time into creating this amazing video. If you want to check out their resources for people with type 1 diabetes surrounding sport & exercise head to the below link:
Mo, is one of the newest members of the Diabetes Football community family having recently finding us! We wanted to get his initial thoughts on what it’s been like since he joined in with our Adult diabetes Futsal teams in Worcester and London. No more words from us over to Mo to tell us about the experience so far.
“I came across the diabetes football community by chance; having attended a type 1 diabetes technology event where Chris Bright presented.
Since that point in time it’s been brilliant, as you’ll see from reading on.
I was diagnosed age 2.5, some 27 years back. Throughout my school life I was always held back from sport as teachers wouldn’t risk me having a hypo. I felt left out many times, but it did spur on a desire to ask “why not?”. I always used to challenge restrictions brought on by society and more often than not was able to prove people wrong.
Through this, I played a lot of sport and it helped me during those early years keep good control of my diabetes and pick up a few hobbies. I also had an amazing paediatric team which inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare (hospital pharmacy).
However, back then diabetes communities were relatively scattered and so I did not know many other type 1’s. I managed the condition entirely on my own, taking on the burdens of life without having a community to share it with.
The diabetes football community totally changed this. The very first training session was brilliant! It was professionally organised, I met fellow type 1’s with respectfully unique stories and had tonnes of fun in a competitive environment. The best bit was having the knowledge that you had each other’s backs if anyone had a hypo (something I had never experienced before in my life).
The toughest thing for me to process as part of my diabetes is my job. I feel heartbroken on many days when I treat people with diabetes who have not been fortunate with their health outcomes. Many are in situations that cannot be reversed and a huge number suffer from mental health problems directly relating to the burden of managing diabetes. I often feel that many of these issues could have been prevented if people were in the right environment and had a drive to manage their condition well.
This is probably what I value most about this community. I feel that it provides an environment for people to enjoy sport, push themselves, feel supported and ultimately get better. It’s unique in this regard. I’m glad I’m part of this project as I feel it’s got a long way to go yet!
Furthermore, throughout my life I’ve always been the sportiest person with Diabetes I knew of. On the first training session, I was surrounded by stronger, faster, more skilful and fitter individuals. This has motivated me to up my game, and also to work hard to try out for the national team next year.
I’ve had the privilege to be part of the London Futsal team that started this year and have already learnt so much from the invaluable experience of other members. We’ve already made history by taking part in a league game against an all deaf team.
Can’t wait to see what the future brings!”
A great account from Muhammad on his initial thoughts on the magic of TDFC and the way we encourage, inspire and support our players with Diabetes to keep going no matter the challenges the condition puts in front of us!
Another amazing story to share with the community brought to you by Karen Brown, the mother of Ellen, a young type 1 who’s having a fantastic time with her Football/Futsal at the moment. Ellen & Karen have been big advocates and supporters of our work at TDFC from the very early days so it’s brilliant to be able to share their story! No more words needed from us, over to you Karen…
“Our daughter Ellen was diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes. As you all know it hits like a bomb and the early days are hard. Somewhere amongst the haze of diagnosis we made a decision that when we got Ellen home we would stabilise her doing all of the sport she usually did. So the day after discharge we took her to school for a few hours and the following Monday she started back swimming. I sat on the edge of the pool chewing my nails hoping she would be fine. Strangely enough the year she was diagnosed is the only year she hasn’t played football (played 1 year of netball and hated it!). Ellen prefers to manage her diabetes with a pump (Medtronic) and we use CGM periodically.
Since then it has been buckets of football and within the last 4 years she has also played futsal in the off-season. It is amazing how different the two are to manage. Football often sends her low- particularly in the cold Canberra winters (we live in Australia) whereas futsal sends her high due to the adrenaline. As futsal isn’t as big in Canberra her futsal club (Boomerangs FS) travel to Sydney to play in a Sydney comp. So every Sydney game we travel between 2 ½ to 4 hours each way (depending on what side of Sydney the game is) to play. The weather in Canberra is quite dry whereas Sydney can be humid which can affect Ellen’s BGLs (sends her low) so at the half way stop en route to the game we reduce insulin if she has any carbs and put a reduced temp basal on. We find doing low carb on the morning prior to the Sydney trips much easier to manage. At least we are only fixing the humidity problem. Then during the games she heads high! Sydney games we nearly always use CGM to help keep an eye on things. If it’s a home game its breakfast as usual. After the game she eats what she wants.
Whilst having diabetes can be tough when you are playing football and futsal, we run at it with the attitude that if we have a tough day diabetes wise we look at why and see if we can do something different. There are days when you just can’t explain why the numbers are what they are! All of her coaches and teams have been really supportive and the boys often try and guess her Blood Glucose Level – she plays in the Boys National Premier League. Ellen also chooses to celebrate her ‘diaversary’, so the team usually hangs out for the cupcakes she takes along to celebrate another year kicking the butt of diabetes.
Having diabetes hasn’t stopped Ellen from achieving in soccer and futsal. The last 12 months have been particularly rewarding!!! 12 months ago her girls futsal team won both the premiership and championship in the Sydney comp. For outdoor her BBFC U16’s team made the Grand Final and won in a penalty shootout. She then made the ACT team (regional team) to play futsal at Nationals in January – they were runners up in the Grand Final in a penalty shootout. And a couple of weeks ago at the presentation night for Boomerangs FS, Ellen was awarded female player of the year. We are pretty proud of her. Winning isn’t everything but it is great to get some wins and they have been a while coming!! Though I must say the victories are much sweeter after the effort you put in to get the diabetes right. (excuse the pun!)
As much as it is a challenge, there have been lots of good things about having diabetes in our lives for the last 8 years. We have made a whole new bunch of friends we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Whilst it is so nice being able to converse with those who understand the challenges and learn new things from. Ellen has had the opportunity to speak at JDRF fundraisers and she was recently asked to take part in some research at ANU.
Being part of TDFC has been a huge help though. It was so nice to hear from others who play football and be able to read about their experiences. With Ellen being a girl it was so nice to read about Noel and what she has achieved. We got to meet Zac (UK DiaEuro Player) at one of Ellen’s games in Sydney and hope to see him again soon. Whilst it’s also great to see that Chris represented his country in Futsal, which gives Ellen so much hope she can achieve the same.
To any young footballer out there, chase your dreams. Ellen’s favourite saying is “I don’t live with diabetes, diabetes lives with me”.”
A really great blog written by Karen Brown and a huge thank you from us for putting it together. If there’s anyone out there reading this who’d like to contribute in a similar way get in touch! We’re always on the look out for blogs and stories to share…
In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:
“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.
The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.
The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…
UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”
If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown