DiaEuro 2018: The Players’ View

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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

 Chris

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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)

 

 

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The Adventure Awaits… DiaEuro 2018

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. 

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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.   

A huge thank you to our wonderful supporters and sponsors Dexcom, Gluco, Havas Lynx and the University of Worcester in allowing us to get us there because without you this wouldn’t have been possible!  

Sunday the 22nd of July 2018, history will be made.

Thank you as always for your support,

Chris

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Our First Training Session (DiaEuro)… Making History

On April 22nd 2018 we began our journey to create the UK’s first all Diabetic Futsal team……

Where do I start… It’s hard to put it into words how proud I am to see this project get off the ground after the hard work and time given up by people behind the scenes at TDFC. I know I personally invested a huge amount of time negotiating, networking and reaching out to people to try and make this happen, and to finally see a group of Diabetic players come together to train, socialise and share experiences has got to be one of my proudest moments I’ve had since launching the community in February 2017.

So in this blog I’m going to try and give a bit of insight into what happened…

So we’d asked the players to arrive between 9:30 – 10 am to give them a few minutes to acclimatise to their surroundings and stretch their legs after a number of them had travelled upwards of 2 hours to get to the University of Worcester ( www.worc.ac.uk ). As the guys all started arriving it was great to see the passion for the project and the idea of playing futsal with a group of people they’d never met! One thing which I spotted as people sat down and got ready for the briefing, was the instant connection and bonding that the guys were doing from the off… Most of them had never really spoken to another type 1 Diabetic let alone a whole room of them all interested in the same sport they were into!!! I’ve seen this happen only on a couple of other occasions at Diabetes related conferences and events but when it’s something you’ve helped organise it’s pretty special to witness. 

Myself and Harley, who’d led the organisation of the day at the university, were keen to give the players a short briefing before they jumped straight into the session. We wanted to properly introduce the members of the TDFC team, give the guys an idea of the agenda and ensure they knew the health & safety procedure at the university. But after this “brief” briefing, it was all about the Futsal!!!

As the lads got kitted up and ready to go, I was running around trying to make sure the coaches were happy and had what they needed, whilst checking Elle and Harley hadn’t come across any hiccups! Luckily it was all good and as the lads entered the hall I was confident we were in a good spot! As Will Weaver and Paul McHugh (our coaches) introduced themselves and their esteemed background in Futsal, I was able to relax ever so slightly. As the session got underway I was able to chat with Jodie and Max who’d come down from the Worcestershire FA to support us and capture footage of the occasion (www.worcestershirefa.com), which was fantastic to see. It was also brilliant to see Sue and Lisa, from the local adult Diabetes specialist team, drop in to view a part of the session. I was extremely appreciative of the local support from our partners in the community on this historic day!   

As we got into the session itself, I spent most of the time observing and capturing images for TDFC social media. My job will be to manage and pick the team, as well as potentially playing, so it was important I got a good idea of the quality level of the players! With the experience of the guys varying from a former professional footballer to recreational Sunday league, the overall standard was really impressive for an introduction to Futsal and I’m really excited about how they continue to develop their passion for the team and the sport. Luckily, we filmed the whole session so I’ve got the help of video footage to review when picking the squad because I’m not sure it’s going to be an easy job based on the ability I saw!!

The session continued to progress very nicely from technical drills, into sessions closely linked to game play, to give the players an opportunity to try out the things they’d just learnt. I just tried to facilitate our coaches’ ability to deliver the session as well as the happiness of players and our band of TDFC volunteers. I maintained a safe distance from playing (due to a game I’d played the day before) and tried to just take it all in, with everyone seemingly enjoying themselves, I was just so pleased. The observing was the best part! Loved it!

To see the media take an interest in our “new” team was also really positive as it gives us the platform to gain support from sponsors, new players, coaches and the governing body of our sport to continue doing this exciting work.  BBC Hereford and Worcester arrived towards the end of the session to do a couple of interviews with myself and the players whilst recording some video footage to use for their social media channels. The below links are showcasing the coverage we received from the day:

Radio:

 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0638fgt#play ( 1 hour 37 minutes 36 seconds for the feature)

 Social Media:

https://instagram.com/p/Bh9AFV3hQLS/ 

https://www.facebook.com/bbcherefordandworcester/videos/2003662723039459/

A huge thank you to the BBC for all of the support and coverage you have given us!

 

As the boys finished up with training I witnessed a moment of absolute gold and something I felt summed up the day perfectly. Seeing a group of lads who’d never met before, high fiving, patting each other on the back and embracing at the end of the session like they’d known each other for years is something I’ll never forget. In reality, they’d known each other for 2 hours!!!  Sharing a medical condition with someone who enjoys the same sport as you drives an instant connection that most people can’t even replicate with their best friends!! Something just clicks….

This signifies the start of something special!

Post session we grabbed the players, coaches and any volunteers who wanted to stay afterwards (of which most did!) to sit and have lunch. The camaraderie and laughter the lads were having normally takes months of work to create, yet they had managed it in a couple of hours, as they exchanged stories of life with Diabetes and shared the obligatory banter over football. Injections and blood glucose monitoring devices were out on all of the tables and carb counting was the norm!

As we brought the day to close and I reflected on what we’d delivered, I was filled with immense pride. This day had been such a long time in the making and I was so pleased it lived up to the expectations we’d set ourselves.  We had some amazingly positive feedback and enthusiasm from the players involved and I think that TDFC did a great job during this first training session.

So it’s onto the next session… Sunday the 17th of June at the University of Worcester Sports Centre. We will be welcoming new and existing players to the session as we continue to work towards getting a team to www.diaeuro.org from the U.K and growing the team beyond this tournament.

Before signing off though, I have to say a huge thank you to Harley, Elle, my parents, Jon, Alex, Bryn, Will, Paul and all of the players for their support in putting on a hugely positive session. I’m sure the positivity surrounding the day will ensure this project goes from strength to strength and I’m super grateful for all of your involvement.

Until the next time,

Chris

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