DiaEuro Player Perspective: Richie Grimes (Ireland)

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Thanks

Richie Grimes

Ps. I guess this means I’m a blogger now? BABY WE DID IT!!!

DiaEuro 2019: UK Player Perspective (Jon Peach)

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!

DiaEuro 2019: UK Player’s Perspective (Calvin Ferguson)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Calvin

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My Story: Kendall Higgs

At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the stories of those 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 more words from us other 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 !

#DiabetesWeek 2019… See Diabetes Differently

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:

https://www.digibete.org/resources/sportsandexercise/

We must also thank the University of Worcester who gave Chris & DigiBete permission to shoot on their campus. Thank you!

We hope you enjoy the video and we’d love to hear your feedback on it! Please share far and wide if you enjoyed it as you never know who it may reach!

Thanks,

TDFC Team

Mo’s Story with TDFC so far…

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!

Thanks Mo. 🙂

Our Journey with Type 1 and Football…

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.

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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!)

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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.

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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…