Firstly, I never thought I’d have to write a statement like this to address a world pandemic but on March 17th2020 that is reluctantly what I’m having to do.
Unity, community and togetherness are the words which TDFC embodies on a daily basis and more than ever we need this right now in the face of the global challenge we have ahead of us….
As the Corona Virus pandemic continues to grow and the world changes its approach every day, I write to you from an ever-changing United Kingdom landscape which has seen drastic measures beginning their introduction into our everyday lives from today.
As an at risk group of people I was fully aware of our responsibility as a community organisation to support and make the right decisions for everyone involved which is why I’m reluctantly pulling together this post.
It is therefore, with sadness we are announcing that no physical TDFC projects will take place for a minimum of 3 months to cover the 12-week social distancing advisory from the UK Government. We will not be delivering any training or education in person during this time for children and adults with diabetes. We had a children’s session in planning for Bristol, our UK men’s team training for DiaEuro, a women’s team on the cusp of creating their first session as well as the launch of our TDFC N/W hub and the growth of TDFC London towards competitive Football/Futsal again this year. This 3-month period may be extended depending upon government advice as things change so rapidly at the moment, but we felt we needed to address the situation.
However, in the greatest adversity I want to call for unity, togetherness and for our COMMUNITY to be just that, a community! We all need each other right now and the beauty of TDFC is that it was brought about through the online space, so guess what, we’re still here and we will still be doing our best to provide positivity and content which provides support, guidance and inspiration. We’re going to need each other to help us have fun throughout this period so let’s do our best to do this too! The team and I will be looking at ways we can provide that so please get in touch if you have any ideas!
During these most challenging times, stick together, be kind and please remember we are here for you all.
Chris (Founder of The Diabetes Football Community)
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness… only the light can!”
I have just fulfilled the dream of every schoolboy and girl who loves sport. I have represented my country at an international tournament. Belting out the national anthem before each game as loud and proud as I could, wearing the union Jack on my kit – this is something I have always dreamed of, but never really thought could happen. But it has. And it has happened with an amazing bunch of team mates, all with the same thing in common. Diabetes.
Since I was diagnosed with diabetes age 5, I have had a love hate relationship with it. When I’m on top of it, and I’m winning, I love it. However, far too often it gets the better of me and I hate it. However, if it wasn’t for diabetes, I wouldn’t have met such an amazing community of people.
A year aģo, I watched on as Chris took the first ever UK team to the 2018 DiaEuros. I hadn’t kicked a ball in 3 years and had retired due to persistent injuries. 10 operations had taken their toll on my body and I’d had enough. However, this was an amazing project that he had set up, and one I wanted to be involved in. But my knowledge of futsal was incredibly limited. However, I didn’t want to be going along all the time if I wasn’t playing. So I decided to rejoin my old 11 a side team in Bristol as well as coming along to all the training sessions with TDFC. I had no intention of putting myself forward for the DiaEuro squad, but wanted to be part of the project. I was enjoying going along to the sessions, and when Chris asked for the final time who wanted to be part of the squad, I had a decision to make; did I want to put myself forward?! I’d heard so many positive things from the previous year that I thought I would. I had no expectation that I’d come close to going, but the thought of it was too good to not try out for. Fast forward a few months and I had been chosen to go to the Ukraine!
My only experience of going away with other diabetics was a kids camp I went on with my family when I was young. While I don’t remember much about it, I didn’t really enjoy it!! This was different though. Every one of us was type 1 diabetic, but we also loved sport, especially football, and in this case futsal. We were able to share stories and help each other out where necessary. Advice was always there if needed, and there was such a range in terms of years of having diabetes. We talked about levels before sporting performance, treatments, different types of insulin….In fact diabetes was quite often one of the main subjects we talked about (as well as football!)
Meals were a challenge, as it was a buffet every meal, we weren’t entirely sure of the carbohydrate content. Some managed it better than others, which was great to see. There was often talk of how much insulin people had given themselves, as well as at what point people gave their insulin.
Going in to the tournament, I thought my bloodsugar control was fairly good. However, being around other diabetics 24-7, I learnt that there is always room for improvement. People who felt 9 was too high to have our blood glucose for a game inspired me to think differently. Whereas before, I might have ignored that, I soon realised that this wasn’t okay, and starting a game with a blood glucose level of 10 might impact upon my performance. I also learnt better treatment of hypos. Too often I over eat and then end up shooting sky high. However, watching other diabetics being patient having had a couple of tablets or some of the amazing lift liquid products we’d been given helped me massively.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have the use of the dexcom G6 for the tournament, which helped my blood glucose levels no end. I started off setting the high alarm at 16, but by the end of the tournament, I had moved it to 10.5. This wasn’t necessarily to treat, but to be aware. It also helped by having arrows, single and double, showing which way my levels were going and at what rate. We have been able to keep this going since returning from Ukraine, and I’m now aware via an alarm when my levels are getting to 4.2, meaning I can treat it before I actually go low.
So after a week where I’ve been so proud to represent my country at futsal, I have also got tips and seen first hand how others also manage their diabetes. Inspired by others, not just from our team and country.
On the playing side of the tournament, sadly the results didn’t reflect the performances we put in. We were well beaten 5-1 by a very good Portugal team in our first game, but the second day was a tough one to take. We outplayed Slovakia but went down 1-0, then again outplayed Ireland, but only managed a 1-1 draw. We had chances, but just couldn’t seem to score the goals. We moved the ball around and the rotations that we’d worked on were going well, but not the results. The next day we were soundly beaten 11-3 by eventual champions Bosnia. By this point we were struggling physically having played the last game on day 2 (our 2nd game that day) and then the first game on day 3. But that’s sport, and we all love it!
The organisation and management was great. We’d get a text the night before telling us our plans, meeting times and what we had to wear or have with us the next day. We then also got one from the amazing physio, Milly, asking if anyone needed treatments, fixing or taping up the next day. As I was sharing a room with fellow old man and captain Tim, Milly spent her fair share of time in our room sorting us out so we could even get out of bed, let alone play!! We had enough kit to be able to have some taken to the laundrette whilst still having enough to wear around and about, train in and travel to and from matches.
There was also a bit of time for sightseeing. We looked around Kiev, and some of the squad were lucky enough to visit Chernobyl on the last day, which was an amazing cultural experience. Without doubt, this is my sporting highlight of my career. Representing my country at a major tournament. But with an amazing group of people who just seem to bond so well. And we all happen to have shown that diabetes can’t hold you back!
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:
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
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!!
In our second instalment of “It’s much more than just Football or Futsal” we look at the story of Scott Burrell. His journey with TDFC and type 1 Diabetes has been staggering and for those of you unaware of what Diabetes care was like without the technology that is available now, I’d urge you to read on… This is a fascinating account of how TDFC has effected and improved Scott’s life and another example of a social / community based project like ours supporting healthcare benefits and objectives for those living with the condition. No more talking from us lets hear from Scott in his own words:
“Being selected in the UK DiaEuro squad really changed my ‘diabetic life’ and that’s by no means an exaggeration! Firstly, and something a majority of the squad had said, was that they’d never met another T1 in ‘normal’ life so that was great. Like any football squad you tend to bond quite quickly with the other players but we bonded especially quickly as we all shared the condition. My knowledge of T1 has increased ten fold. It was great to share stories and bounce successes/failures off each other.
I was actually the only member on mixed insulin. I was taking Humulin M3 which was the same insulin I’d used since diagnosis in 1999! I’d been told for many years, probably close to 10, that a basal/bolus regime would be better for me, but me being a stubborn so and so I’d always thought I’d be better sticking with what I knew. Seeing all the other lads using the basal/bolus regime and many telling me how they had moved from mixed insulin and how much better it was really gave me the incentive to change.
A few months after we got back I eventually made the switch and now take Toujeo & Novo Rapid, I’m finding it much better and in hindsight wish I’d changed over many years ago. I’m certainly having less hypos which had always been a big problem for me before. As good as healthcare professionals are it was the kick from people living with the condition day in, day out which convinced me to finally change.
Finally I’m a lot more open about my Diabetes now… Growing up and even in my early 20s I’d try to hide it as much as possible, not talk about it and only tell people I was T1 if really needed. My mentality completely changed about that having been selected in the squad. I’ve now had newspaper articles written about me and appeared in a TDFC video filmed by BBC Hereford & Worcester which they shared on their social media platforms talking about the project and the condition. It actually made me feel ‘proud’ and gave me a desire to talk about diabetes for the first time…something I’d never experienced before in my time as a T1.”
Keep an eye out for more stories from some of the community and if you want to follow Scott on social media head to his twitter account @scottbufc to get in contact with him.
In April 2018, we started something which had never been done before. We created the first ever Futsal team in the UK that contained only players that lived with Type 1 Diabetes… As much as we hoped it would inspire and raise awareness of the condition we also wanted it to change lives and demonstrate the value of doing things differently to the medical profession when looking after people with Diabetes. We think it’s done that and more! Hopefully organisations such as the NHS can see the value organisations like ours add and continue to grow their support and the opportunities to work more closely together.
However, that’s enough about what we think…. Let’s hear from Tim Ward the UK Diabetes Futsal Team Goalkeeper about how TDFC has changed his life:
“Since becoming involved in the Diabetes Football Community and representing the UK as a member of the DiaEuro Squad my view of and the way I approach and manage my diabetes has changed, dramatically and it’s all been positive.
My usual mind set for the dreaded annual review at the local Diabetes Centre was an appointment to be met with the same antipathy as some of the staff showed when I tried to discuss the dreaded topic of getting any “Flash Glucose Monitoring”?! I have had my “Lazy” pancreas now for 37 years and as you can imagine as the years pass the complications within your health and well-being can arise and you start to accept this as the inevitable. Not any more!
A group of lads with a shared love of all things Futsal and Football related (be it all with Diabetes) can be a base of support, encouragement and knowledge which goes against the stereotype many wish to portray, but this is exactly what I have found.
Gone is the stigma of testing my blood glucose levels in the changing room before a game, or taking in extra carbohydrates if my levels drop while playing.
I have found answers to questions that the local clinics were unable or unwilling to give, I have experienced flash monitoring which has had an amazing effect on my knowledge of how my diet and eating habits affect my levels and how to better manage them to keep within the optimum levels. I have through the members of the squad learned new diet ideas of more fibrous carbohydrates, of when and how to inject and different options on the insulin to use. I now know that there are a myriad of options available to me to not just perform better in a sporting context but also live a healthier more energized life of less hypos, a better hba1c and greater trust in my own body.
The greatest impact has been that I do not have to be ashamed of my condition, it is not a weakness, don’t believe it and don’t let others convince you that it is. It is simply a bad hand dealt. Make the most of that hand, TDFC can and will support you in any way they can.
TDFC and especially the players, coaches and management of the DiaEuro squad have taught me through words, actions or just a smile and a nod that when you’re ready to play, take a deep breath, tie your boots, test your blood and go and beat whatever is in front of you, because you can.”
If you want to follow Tim on social media head to his twitter: @Tim_Ward07 or to his instagram: @timward16 and make sure you keep an eye out on the blog as we release more player thoughts on how TDFC has impacted their lives in the coming weeks.
It’s great to be able to share stories of our community and when we asked Zak if he’d like to write for the blog he was really keen… If you’d like to write something for us please get in touch! Anyway, over to Zak…
Hi, my name is Zak. I am 26 years old and a PE Teacher from Lancashire, England but currently living in Sydney, Australia.
Football has always been a huge part of my life and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 14 did not change this one bit.
Despite my Dad’s initial fears that I may not be able to play football in the same way, we were reassured by the nurses at Blackburn Hospital that I could continue my number one hobby soon enough. Sure enough, after a few minor adjustments and some extra pre-game preparation, I lined up for my team just two weeks after diagnosis! I remember it so vividly, tucking into a couple of digestive biscuits at half time to keep my blood sugars up and cramping up towards the end of the game.
I know that many people have struggled to keep up their previous lifestyles after diagnosis, through fear of hypos/hypers or by misinformed advice, but it’s something that has never stopped me from doing anything I like… except for one thing – scuba diving.
I have tried to Scuba Dive twice in Thailand and Australia but not been accepted both times. Without a doctor’s letter of approval after taking private health exams via a registered “dive doctor”, unfortunately I had to stick to snorkeling. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences with scuba diving so please get in contact if you have a story or info worth sharing!
And despite the scuba setback, I have done kayaking, bungee jumps, overnight treks, 100km bike rides and many many more adventurous activities!
Having diabetes has its obvious challenges and hurdles we face day in, day out, but it has given me some great experiences that I will cherish for a long time to come…
I have been fortunate to represent Great Britain in the Junior Diabetes Cup held in Geneva, Switzerland. In my first year (2009), we won the tournament in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Slovakia. I was due to be the next penalty taker and I can’t describe the relief I felt at not having to take one! I went back again the next year and was nominated to be captain, which was an incredible honour. Despite finishing the top scorer in the tournament, we lost 1-0 in the final to Slovakia who got their sweet revenge (excuse the pun).
Then in September 2016, I decided to move to Australia to give life a go “down under”. I have found a great football team here in Sydney and have represented Australia at the Mini Football World Cup in Tunisia, playing in front of a packed stadium of 3000 fans under the floodlights! I spent a bit of time pre-tournament learning the national anthem so that I didn’t have to mime awkwardly whilst on camera! I was also part of the UK’s first diabetic futsal team to play in DiaEuro 2018, which was an amazing experience both on and off the court. To meet so many other diabetics with a passion as big as mine for football was incredible, you can imagine how many stories were shared during that week!
A few adjustments have been made after moving to Australia, most notably with my prescriptions and dealing with heat of up to 40 degrees during summer! I have to pay for my diabetes supplies here, which makes me appreciate just how good the NHS is back home. Playing football in the heat took some trial and error too. My suncream is now just as important to pack as my insulin on a Saturday afternoon!
Two and a half years down the line and I’m still enjoying life here. I’ve met one other sporting diabetic superstar and her family in Sydney – my namesakes the Brown’s have been great at handling Ellen’s diabetes whilst she competes at the highest level of futsal in Australia at U17 and all age women’s level. I hope to meet and chat to a few other sporty diabetics in the near future, so if you’ve read this and want to add anything of your own then please step forward!
If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown