2020 hasn’t been the year any of us expected and instead it has provided us with challenges that none of us could have imagined… It’s been tough for the entire world to come to terms with….. So what we’d like to do now is showcase how some of our community have been coping with the situation we’ve been confronted by. So if you’d like to share your lockdown or post lockdown story of how you’ve been dealing with the COVID19 crisis we’d love to hear from you!!! Send your stories in to us with your pictures and videos and we will get them on the website. We hope that by sharing your story it will help and inspire someone else who might be finding the situation difficult to cope with.
To kick us off we’ve got a story shared by Tim Ward (Our Men’s UK DiaEuro team Captain) about how he’s been adapting with COVID19 to coach children all whilst trying to keep himself safe after 40 years with type 1. No more words from us, over to Tim :
“The footballing world has always been a tricky one to navigate with Type 1 Diabetes, what are my blood sugar levels, have I got my glucose/Lucozade, what time did I eat, will I need something more at half time. The list goes on. Now as a coach it feels to me the bar has been raised. I now have eighteen 7 to 10 year olds to care for so I have to be on my game and touch wood, I’ve never had a hypo yet while coaching.
After the COVID-19 lockdown the academy (IFA) I work for started to run academy and pre academy sessions again (to the delight of the kids and the parents as a chance to burn off some pent up energy) in June after the FA guidance gave us guidelines to do so.
The restrictions including limits on player numbers attending, social distancing and hygiene, disinfection requirements were a needed headache especially for me being within the high risk group (44 years old, type 1 diabetic). But I’m fit and healthy so don’t put me down just yet. 😊
Every child and coach had their own station to place drinks, possessions etc and parents were asked to stand at the far end of the pitches where we trained, whilst being well aware of the requirements through WhatsApp messages and our Heja app.
As a group we designed some amazing sessions emphasising ball mastery and challenges which kept the kids entertained and making them competitive through time trials & races which mitigated the lack of competitive matches.
Thankfully we can now run normal (ish) sessions but the planning and organisation required in the beginning I feel has improved me as a coach. I spent hours reviewing all aspects of each session more thoroughly whilst spending more time reflecting to make each session a great one (still working on that).
As a diabetic of 40 years being prepared has always been part of my make up and the extra restrictions and planning required didn’t really alter my approach, get it done, crack on. Always making sure I’ve planned for my diabetes as well as the sessions, to ensure that me and the kids are as safe as we can be, so we can all enjoy what we love doing, playing football!”
Make sure you get in touch if you’d like to share your story.
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!
The new year is always a chance to take a fresh look at things and alter the path or journey we’re on…. At the start of every year I try to look at the context I’m surrounded by and set myself new goals or challenges which drive my motivation for what’s ahead.
But what I thought I’d do, to help some of you out there who might be thinking about starting a journey with Football/Futsal & Type 1 Diabetes or taking it up a level, is give you some insight around how I manage my condition. 2019 was a pretty good year for me with my sport so it’s probably a good time to share with you some of the ways I go about trying to get the best from my glucose levels to allow me to play to the best of my ability.
So I thought I’d outline some of the ideas, most of which I shared at the #SporT1Day conference, to hopefully provide some insight and support to anyone out there who might need it.
Here’s my general thoughts on what I try to do or think about for my management before any sport or exercise:
A plan of how to approach the sport/exercise/game – What type of exercise is it (interval, aerobic, anaerobic etc)? Intensity? Duration? Time of day? Timing of meals? Last Bolus?
Consistency of Routine – If it’s working, I keep using it.
Good night’s sleep.
Plenty of time between pre match meal insulin dose and starting the game (3 hours + ideally)
Lots of Testing – As much as you can or utilising a CGM such as the Dexcom G6 which has been the best I’ve used so far. This way you can learn about the effects of types of exercises, intensities, durations etc on your glucose levels.
Small adjustments of insulin & carbs to try and find the right glucose level for your best performance or for you to just enjoy it.
I aim for 7-8 mmols throughout the duration of any game to try and achieve my best performances.
Having my quick acting hypo treatments and insulin available and accessible for any adjustment I might need.
Consider the weather… Is it cold or hot? They usually play a part in how our glucose levels respond.
Am I in good general health? Have I been ill recently? Can play a part in less predictable glucose levels.
Keeping on top of my hydration… I find my levels drop more quickly if I’m dehydrated.
Stress Levels – Do I feel nervous? Am I calm? Sometimes bigger games cause a bigger adrenaline spike in glucose levels. Do I need to account for this?
Have I fuelled up well before the exercise? Have I eaten enough calories/carbs in general for the energy I’m going to expend.
Always consider how much activity you’ve been doing around the particular sport or exercise you’re about to take part in, because the more active you are, the more sensitive to insulin you are!
Below are some of the generic details about my day to day management…
• My daily carb intake is around 180g. ( + or – depending on activity levels). I’m on MDI and CGM, No pump.
• Carb Ratios are roughly 1:15 g breakfast, 1:10g lunch, 1:7.5 g for dinner.
Much of what I’ve said above is linked to a generic way I tackle my Football or Futsal but there are some subtle differences I employ between the two because the intensity of the two sports is very different. This has a drastic impact on the reaction of my glucose levels and the way I manage them during and afterwards especially. So I’ll show you some of the key differences below:
Football (Example is preparation towards a Saturday 3pm Kick Off)
Aiming to be 7-8mmols to start the game and throughout.
Ensuring my pre-game meal & bolus is 3 hours before kick off.
Reducing pre-game meal bolus by roughly 10%.
Half time testing and adjusting based on level. If I’m below 9mmols I’ll take on 10g of carbs to cater for the second half dip and even more if my levels are below 5mmols. These choices very much depend on length of time you’re going to play and how hard the game is. If it’s a tough game with a lot of chasing then I sometimes have an extra 5-10g of carbs. If I’m over 13mmols I’ll take on a unit of insulin.
Post game meal I reduce my bolus by 25-50% depending on how much I’ve played and the intensity of the game.
I try to make my post-game meal both full of protein and carbohydrate to help with the recovery of glycogen stores and muscle growth/repair.
I will have a bed-time snack of 10-15g without a bolus to try and alleviate the nocturnal hypo risk. (If I’ve played a whole 90 minutes, I’ll scale all of this back if I’ve played less than that)
I don’t adjust my basal insulin because I use Tresiba, which is an ultra-long acting insulin and this will have no effect on my risk of a nocturnal hypo.
I like to start the game at 5mmols if I can, because despite being lower, I’m still likely to need a small bolus before the game or at half time to manage my levels rising as a result of the higher intensity and expected spike.
Because of the roll on, roll off substitutions within Futsal, there’s a lot more opportunity for adjustment. So I always come off from the court and immediately check my CGM and look for the trend arrows and glucose level.
I always tend to carry a bit of short acting insulin in my system because for me within Futsal, knowing I have frequent breaks and the likely impact of the intensity (levels rising), I’d rather be lower and taking on some glucose, as it reacts quicker than my insulin, than being too high and waiting for my insulin to kick in. The important factor for me is having a glucose level which allows for performance, not the number of adjustments I have to make.
I will always have a protein bar/snack post game of around 20g of carbs because I tend to have a sharp drop in my levels post game. Probably as a result of carrying short – acting insulin during my sport and the intensity.
I don’t make any bolus adjustments post – game to my meals. Again I’ll eat a meal heavy in protein and carbohydrate.
No basal adjustments as a result of using tresiba.
If I want a bed-time snack I’ll bolus for it with a small reduction of 25%.
I really hope that this is a useful post for people out there trying to tackle football or futsal for the first time, or who might be finding it challenging currently. If something from this article helps someone out there get more from their performance or just allows them to enjoy it more I’ll be happy!! Please give it a share if you can because I’m sure you’ll know someone who may also find this useful.
I’ve also added my slides from the #SporT1Day Conference to the bottom of this post if you wanted to see what I shared on the day, which also has much of this detail in.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year! Please also be aware of the below disclaimer.
Disclaimer – Always remember that this a personal perspective and is not endorsed by a medical professional. So any advice or ideas you take from this post is at your own risk and should always be cleared by your diabetes team.
We’ve had some incredible things going on within the TDFC family during 2019 and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved together.
For the last couple of years I’ve written a blog to try and summarise the progress that we’ve made during the previous year because as much as I firmly believe in focusing on the present, to ensure we don’t stand still, it’s also important to celebrate and remind ourselves of the successes along the way.
Firstly, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helps to make this community what it is. Those who’ve stepped forward to lead on particular projects and areas which needed support I’ll never be able to thank you enough. You know who you are and I hope you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take our community to the next level. We don’t stop there though…. 2020 has so many exciting ideas that we need our current team and others to step forward to make it happen.
Before I start recapping, I’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors Dexcom, Lift, JL property solutions ltd and our close partner the University of Worcester. Without your support none of what we’ve done in 2019 would’ve been possible. Thank you for everything and I hope we can continue what we’ve started as we enter 2020 and the next decade.
Now, I’ll try and talk about some of the big moments in order of how they happened throughout 2019….
So, to kick it off we had the beginnings of TDFC London. It is our affiliated project that takes the ethos & ideology of what TDFC is all about and localises it to the area of London. Having come up with the idea for this alongside Bryn during DiaEuro 2018 it was amazing to get this off the ground in February 2019. This was the first ever all type 1 futsal or football team to take part in a mainstream Futsal league when we entered the London Futsal League in May 2019. An amazing statement which I know the boys are extremely proud of. It was a special moment seeing the lads take on this enormous challenge. I was just delighted I could be a part of 2 of the 3 wins TDFC London picked up in their first season! The first time I was involved in a win was momentous, not only because of the statement it makes, but because we did it against another disability team. We played against a deaf team, which was another bit of history, having our 2 teams battle it out in a mainstream futsal league. It’s been a fantastic start for this project and as the numbers of people interested continues to grow it’s looking like a really exciting 2020. We must thank Havas Lynx for their support for the team in 2019 as we got the team off the ground. Make sure you visit our “Find Your Local Community” page if you’re interested in what they’re up to.
Alongside delivering our own projects we try our best to network at some of the diabetes events and projects across the country. We’ve grown the awareness of our community by attending these events and in 2019 we tried to ensure that we continue to reach further and engage with members of the community interested in our journey. Having our stand at Talking About Diabetes (TAD), the rise of the machines 2 (RoTM 2) and EXTOD (Exercise for Type One Diabetes) allowed us to do just that. It’s always amazing to get a feel for what’s going on in the community that supports us. We’ve been lucky enough to exhibit and share at conferences like these for the last 2 years and we’re very grateful for every chance we get to do this.
With the unique nature of some of the work we’ve had the pleasure of creating, we’ve also had more interest than ever in coming to take a look at what we’ve been up to in 2019. This has led to some amazing awareness for The Diabetes Football Community which we’ve all been incredibly proud of. I just want to mention a few which I think have captured the reason we exist, been seen by most people and have probably resonated furthest with the community.
When we spoke with Jonny Labey in the early part of 2019, it was a chance to show him what we were up to for his new Know Your Type vlog. So, we invited him along to one of our UK Diabetes Futsal Training days. Jonny is a former Eastenders actor, West End performer and was recently on The X Factor Celebrity series but the most important thing is obviously that he lives with type 1 diabetes too. We didn’t just get him in to film what we were up to and interview myself and the team, we had him playing as well!!! Jonny was top class on the day and got stuck into the friendly match we had planned. You can see the feature Jonny created on the below link:
Then as we headed towards our big summer project, which aims to inspire and raise awareness of our condition we had another bit of great news in showcasing our work. So as our UK male Diabetes Futsal squad were preparing for Kiev, Ukraine and a week away at the DiaEuros (European Futsal Championship for people with diabetes, www.diaeuro.org), the local BBC Midlands Today team got in touch to come and feature the squad’s final training session. It was our first exposure on the Television…. I was made up for our project and all of the team involved. Showcasing what people with Diabetes can do in the form of our Futsal team goes some way to disproving many of the stereotypes and stigma which surrounds the word Diabetes, so to have our story shared to a mainstream audience on this scale was incredible. If you want to check it out look on the below link:
Also, during the final days of build-up to DiaEuro we had the honour of having 2 England Cricket Legends announcing our squad for us… Again another fantastic piece of awareness for TDFC during the Cricket World Cup 2019. I know some of the lads were big cricket fans so to have these guys read out their names to represent the UK’s All Diabetes Futsal team was a huge honour for them before they’d even kicked a ball. A huge thank you to Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson (And Tim Peach for organising it!) for doing this for the team and the project, it means a lot and will be something we all look back upon with our smile on our faces…. check it out below:
Then of course there was the experience of the tournament itself…. What a spectacle it is for diabetes. I wish more could be made of the journey, the teams and the showcase for the condition. It’s a special opportunity to represent your country and your condition…. One which I’ve had the pleasure of doing on 2 occasions now and with this team I hope I’ll be able to continue to do so in whatever capacity that is for a good while to come…. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play forever!!!! I won’t talk too much about it as I wrote down my thoughts on the below blog post, but it’s without doubt one of the biggest highlights of 2019:
As we arrived home from the championships, I knew something pretty big was also on the horizon but I was sworn to secrecy for at least 2/3 months prior to it happening…. A big moment for me, a big moment for TDFC but an even bigger moment for type 1 diabetes in sport & physical activity. Sport England in combination with the Richmond Group of charities had decided to create a national campaign to attempt to increase the numbers of people exercising whilst living with chronic health conditions. The #WeAreUndefeatable campaign is the first time in my lifetime I’ve seen a concerted effort to promote people living with health conditions into physical activity (Also the first time I’d seen anyone injecting insulin on TV!). For someone who’s always shared a love of exercise with my chronic health condition, this has been an incredibly long time in coming, but I’m so pleased that the emphasis is there and it’s had a national spotlight. I was obviously incredibly honoured to have been featured in the campaign, to represent Type 1 Diabetes, but for me it’s just another chance to change perceptions, stereotypes and the stigma I’ve faced in sport since the day I was diagnosed. My story embedded within the campaign is just a strand in the fabric of the overall picture of what’s happening. The winds of change are blowing and I believe our work is certainly contributing…. Thank you to all of the #WeAreUndefeatable team for doing such an amazing job with the campaign and my story. I do find it tough to watch… Talking about the pain I felt as a kid gets me every time but this creates the power within the message. My condition hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my sport and nor should it. I hope this comes across. If you want to check out the TV advert you can find it on the below link:
Alongside our own pride in the work we do it’s also been amazing to receive our first award/accolade during 2019… It’s never something you set out to do when you begin a journey within a project like ours but nevertheless it’s incredibly humbling to receive an award in recognition of the hard work the project has put in. Earlier this year we received the Grassroots Project of The Year from the Worcestershire FA in acknowledgement of the impact we’re having across the county for Diabetes in Football. A list of the County’s award winners for 2019 can be found on the below link:
Then finally, we had the incredible #SporT1Day 2019 conference held at the University of Worcester. Another massive highlight in the year as we work alongside 1BloodyDrop to create the only conference focussed on type 1 diabetes in sport and exercise, created by people living with the condition. It’s proven to be a huge success with many of the diabetes community and we can’t wait to see where this ends up. It was a fitting way to celebrate World Diabetes Day 2019 and a fitting way to finish up our major projects for the year. If you want to read up on what happened at the conference head to the below link:
As with anything in life, as much as I want to ensure we don’t forget the incredible things we’ve done I’m also conscious we need to look at the things to come…
On the horizon for 2020 are a number of new ideas and projects to compliment our existing ones. We’re in the midst of starting up our Women’s Diabetes Futsal project led by Katie McLean which will look to mirror our successful Men’s project. We will be finally getting to our Kid’s sessions in partnership with the Worcestershire FA after securing a slot on their new 3G astro turf facility in 2020, as well as looking at a project that moves around the country in combination with the growth of our local community hubs. It’s an exciting time to see where the next turn on this journey of ours takes us.
An incredible 2019 which took TDFC up a notch, and with the help of everyone involved in our wonderful project, we hope to go up another level in 2020. Please keep sharing, liking, retweeting, tweeting, commenting on our work and helping in any way you can, it all helps. If you’d like to get involved in what we’re up to we’d love to hear from you so please make sure you send us an email if you feel like that’s you.
It’s an honour and privilege to be leading TDFC into 2020. Single handedly the best decision I ever made was creating this project and it means the world to have so many people sharing the journey.
It’s strange being asked to put down in words what my experience was like in Kiev. When Chris Bright asked me initially to say a few words for the TDFC website I said yes immediately, “that’s grand, no problem”. But fast forward a week and I still haven’t written anything down yet (sorry Chris).
So here we go……
I heard about trials taking place for the first ever Irish Diabetic football team in November 2018. My manager from my 11 a side team made me aware of it and said I should go for it. My initial reaction was to say no. At the ripe old age of 34, my dreams of pulling on a green jersey and representing my country were just that….. dreams. I don’t know what changed my mind but I decided to head up one night and check it out.
Driving home after that first session I thought to myself, ‘My god, Futsal is NOT like football at all’. But I loved it.
We met up and trained once a month after that. I would’ve loved to have trained every week but it just wasn’t a viable option. People were making huge sacrifices to make it even once a month, coming from all over the country to be there.
There was so much work to be done and literally no time to do it. All of the players had played football at some level, but I don’t think anybody had played Futsal before. The differences in both games are huge. It’s essentially like playing basketball with your feet. Trying to get used to Futsal as a team was very challenging and we suffered big time when playing friendly matches against experienced Futsal teams.
My respect and thanks have to go out to Alban our coach, because he had the patience of a saint. I’m sure he had thoughts of strangling one or two of us at times (not naming names).
The final squad was announced a couple of months before the tournament. I was buzzing to be apart of it all but to be honest it didn’t seem real to me at that stage.
Because the team wasn’t recognised by the FAI or Sport Ireland, we had to do all of the fundraising ourselves to get to Kiev. This was something I hated having to do as it meant broadcasting it all over social media and I didn’t like having to go on Facebook with the cap in hand, and ask for donations.
To be fair, the response we got was nothing short of incredible. I was overwhelmed by it. I expected people to throw maybe a fiver or a tenner my way. But we had loads of donations of €50s, €100s etc. A guy I went to college with who I hadn’t seen in 10 years, donated €100. Absolute madness. I mailed him straight away to thank him and said it was too much. He mentioned to me that he had cousins who were recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and he knew it was hard. So a massive thank you to all who donated to us.
Looking back, it was strange during our training sessions because we never really mentioned that we were all diabetic. Any conversations about insulin or hypos or Libres were brief and short. Because our time together was so limited, it was all about the football, or all about the Futsal I should say. Towards the end we had a running joke where we wondered if we were even diabetic.
That all changed once we set off for Ukraine. When we met at Dublin airport in our Ireland tracksuits, it finally hit home and it felt real. We were going to the EUROS!!!
I had never been in an environment before where diabetes was openly discussed by everybody in the room. Bloods were checked, insulin injected, pumps were being used. It was an experience to say the least. Everybody followed the same general guidelines and principles of what should be done being a diabetic, but each person had their own little way of doing things. There was no definitive right way or wrong way to do it.
I bombarded the lads with question after question, and we swapped loads of stories of how diabetes has affected our day-to-day lives. One of my favourite topics was discussing favourite foods to treat a hypo, and I got some weird responses in return.
It was refreshing to see everybody so open about it, and honestly it was the first time since I was diagnosed 4 years ago where I actually felt normal.
Kiev was brilliant. I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life ever. Our free time consisted of walking to supermarkets looking for food, and winding each other up. The two lads I roomed with, Mark and Aidan, were straight up mental cases. Although we’d essentially just met, I felt like I’d known them for years and nobody got a free pass when it came to being made fun of. It was brilliant.
Each night at 11pm, everybody would come down to Room 36, gather around one mobile phone to watch a dodgy stream of Love Island and drink cups of tea. Looking back it was all very romantic.
The tournament itself was just special. I was asked by Alban to captain the team and I was bursting with pride to lead the lads out. Hearing Amhran na Bhfiann belting out before each game was a memory I will never ever forget.
Our first game was against the reigning champions Bosnia. An excellent team with tons of experience. It finished 3-0 but we were happy with our performance and we gave a good account of ourselves after a nervous start. The next morning we faced Portugal, a very skilful and tricky team. We scored first and played really well throughout. Ultimately their class shone through in a 6-2 win, but we did have chances.
Later that day came the UK game. It goes without saying that it was a huge match and one that neither team wanted to be on the losing side of. They came out of the blocks really quickly and hit us with everything. To our credit we hung in and defended well as a unit. Our gameplan was to keep it tight and take our chances on the break. We went 1-0 up with a well worked goal. Again the UK hit us with everything they had and equalised towards the end. It finished 1-1. The UK lads will say they deserved to win it, and they could have easily won it. But we also had chances too and I think a draw was a fair result in the end. Until next time.
Having played almost 2 full matches with no breaks, I was physically exhausted and just delighted there were no more games that day.
The last game of the group we played Slovakia. A strong physical side who wore us down in the end. We took an early lead again but the game finished in a 3-1 defeat. That was the only game I felt that got away because I thought we were evenly matched.
Physically we were drained going into the last day playoff games. We came up against a very good Hungary team and just didn’t have the energy to compete. It finished 3-0 but we gave it everything.
In our last game we beat Bulgaria 4-0 to finish 7thplace overall. I didn’t want the tournament to end and felt we were improving as each game passed. I was proud of every single one of our lads. We left everything out on the pitch and couldn’t have given anymore. We did the country proud.
On a personal note I was delighted to chip in with a goal against Portugal and Slovakia.
I also particularly enjoyed at the end of each match, where both teams would pose for a photo together. Regardless of the results or when tensions boiled over, we still did it with a smile. It showed a togetherness and great sportsmanship and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
As a team we didn’t get to do much sightseeing in Kiev but we did manage to do a stadium tour of the Olympic Stadium, which was very cool. After feeling the effects of the post tournament celebrations, it probably wasn’t the best idea to run a 100m race on the track in searing heat. It felt like we were running with parachutes on our backs, however I still managed to pip them on the line to win in a ‘respectable’ time of about 20seconds, ahem (video proof below!).
Before I go, I want to give a special thanks to Cathal Fleming who made all of this happen. The time and effort he put in to organising the squad and getting us to Kiev was amazing. When he first thought of the idea to make an Ireland Futsal team, I’m sure he had aspirations of playing outfield and scoring a few goals. But we had no goalkeeper and he ended up playing in goal for us. By the end of the week he was deservedly voted our player of the tournament, which is a testament to the man.
He is currently trying to develop our team further by entering us into our national Futsal league, which can only make us better. If there are any diabetics reading this who live in Ireland and love football, please come and try it out, and thank me later.
I had one of the best weeks of my life and I have genuinely made friends for life in that Ireland squad. An incredible bunch of lads. Can’t wait for next year already.
Ps. I guess this means I’m a blogger now? BABY WE DID IT!!!
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!
Now the dust has settled on the recent DiaEuro’s, I thought it would be a good time to summarise the experience…
It was an unbelievable feeling to pull on the kit and represent the United Kingdom in an international tournament. I have never felt any feeling like the feeling when we sang the national anthem before every game. To score was a bonus, from my own half and against the holders and eventual champions was even more special.
The standard of Futsal was phenomenal at times, especially against the likes of Portugal and Bosnia, they are light years ahead of where the UK as a whole are with Futsal, although to be fair, it is played far more commonly across Central and Eastern Europe, along with South America, than it is here in the UK, but, we are finally making moves forward to somewhat closing the quality gap. We received many comments from opposition managers and players, stating how we were much improved from last year, even if the eventual results did not show this.
We were beaten 5-1 in the opening game against Portugal, although we felt the scoreline was pretty harsh, we had no argument about the loss itself. The day after we then lost 1-0 to Slovakia, after dominating the game, which was disappointing and then, in the afternoon, we drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland, again, after having the majority of chances.
We were truly up against it as we then required a result against the holders, Bosnia & Herzegovina, to have a chance of progressing from the group stage. They blitzed us in the first half and we were 8-1 down at half time and 11-1 down within 2 minutes of the 2nd half beginning…! To our credit, we dominated most of the second half, which included my goal, but the game was long gone by then…Bosnia went on to beat the hosts, Ukraine, 1-0, in the final, therefore retaining their title.
It has been great reading all the messages of support from home whilst we were over there, thanks so much for those, it meant a lot to the team and pushed us even further to take pride in representing both our country and condition. It was great to have my Dad supporting us up in the stands for all the games too, along with family members of other players and also people from other nations, who took to our fight and determination on display.
I can genuinely say that it was a pleasure and a privilege to line up alongside each and every one of you lads in the squad…the spirit we showed to play for each other, our country and condition was second to none…at 11-1 down against the tournaments best team, we rallied round and promised each other that we would hold strong and use that first half “schooling” as a lesson, to then play out the rest of the half at a score of 2-0 in our favour was exactly what was needed, even if it was too late to rescue anything from the match.
We formed bonds with many of the players from other nations, including Portugal, Ukraine and Croatia, something that will help us both at future DiaEuro tournaments, and, as a team as a whole.
The main message overall was to prove that Diabetes should be no barrier to playing sport and competing at a high standard. I never thought I would represent my country at this level in any sport but now that I have done, I am very proud to say that. The team as a whole was really supportive of each other, helping each other out when low – many of the guys provided me with the Lift glucose tablets when I hadn’t any left over and the Dexcom G6 CGM allowed constant monitoring for the whole squad, the beep became a famous notification amongst the squad, meaning nobody could avoid correcting their levels!
Despite the results, the experience was absolutely first class, I am very proud of each and every one of the team, including the management staff and our supporters who came out to Ukraine to cheer us on…simply the best!
As a Diabetic, there are no barriers to what you can achieve – whether you want to represent your country or just simply play sport with your friends in the park, you can achieve any of this…Diabetes will not stop you from participating or achieving your dreams. Some days are certainly tougher than others but with constantly improving technology, awareness and support groups, like TDFC, the boundaries and barriers are becoming smaller and the world is becoming more aware of Diabetes…
I hope we as a squad have inspired and motivated many of you back at home and those of you who are a part of the TDFC community. The results may have not gone our way this year, but, our main goal is always to spread the word and pass on the message that Diabetes creates no barriers to achieving what you wish.
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!