The Impact of Stigma on Identity Formation within a Diabetes Football Community… A Research Project

For the last 3 and a half years The Diabetes Football Community has been doing its best to be a leader of peer support for sporty people with Diabetes and those specifically with a passion for Football….. As we’ve seen growth, an increase in engagement and increase in awareness there has been widespread acceptance that there is a need for this group to come together, to provide help for a population of people who felt under-supported before TDFC arrived. However, a big question loomed for me from the off…. Why has it taken until now for this group of people to feel supported? And why has the community continued to develop?

In the pursuit of these answers I decided I needed to expand my knowledge and investigate the issue. So, just under 3 years ago I took the decision to study for a master’s degree in Socio Cultural Studies of Sport and Exercise. By choosing this particular path it allowed me to create my own research project which followed the degree’s subject, but in a field I was passionate about. This gave me the opportunity to search for the answers in the hope that I could glean insight which may help alter the narrative that people with type 1 Diabetes have been up against in Football throughout my entire life.

So, I’m really delighted to say that I’ve now completed my degree and am awaiting the final results. It’s been an incredible 3 year journey which has taught me a lot, but in this blog post I want to give a bit of background and discuss some of the reasons why I feel it’s a hugely important step for the community, as well as the concepts and findings which have been presented within the conclusions of the study.

The Why?…

I wanted to provide academic foundations for why this incredible community continues to grow, support and enhance the lives of those who are involved. Academic research remains at the forefront of change globally and I felt this was the right way to try to influence leaders across the globe, into considering how the narrative for Diabetes care should not be completely focussed upon medical enhancements and technology, in improving the lives of those with T1D.

The How?…

The research I conducted involved analysing some of the online content of blog posts, Facebook posts and tweets as well as interviewing several type 1 members of the community who had volunteered their time to support with the project. This allowed me to collect a substantial amount of data to analyse and compare with previously written academic literature.

What was found…

So, the really important bit…. What were the findings? What did the analysis show about our community and how stigma impacts on members of our Diabetes football Community living with Type 1.

Well… there’s plenty to choose from.

As most people would expect stigma towards Diabetes was shown again to impact the lives of those interviewed, whilst also driving the success of particular online content, as posts which were uplifting, dispelled stigma and provided education against it, were all highly viewed and extremely important to community.

I don’t think that would come to the surprise of many involved in TDFC, however the strong feelings of discontent surrounding type 2 related stigma imposed upon those living with type 1 was an area which I was a little surprised by. The feelings demonstrated were strong and it may have something to do with the particular field the study was focussed in, Football. With Football an unforgiving sport, where weakness is often exploited and ostracised you can potentially see why some of the participants felt strongly towards a stigma bestowed upon them which doesn’t actually represent what they live with. Yet, in their eyes it affects how they could go about their business on a Football pitch or Futsal court.

But it’s there on that very Football pitch or Futsal court where one of the most surprising findings from the study really comes to fruition…

As I’ve already mentioned, the show no weakness culture, masculinity and macho approach that’s embedded in Football really pushes players to hide anything that could be perceived as a weakness by fans, players, coaches or the media. This is why for example there’s not a single player in any professional Football league in England who has come out as gay for example… It’s a perceived weakness which goes against the image of masculinity and strength within the sport so therefore must be hidden. In all other parts of society that stigma is beginning to break but in Sport it still remains, and I believe that it forms the basis of why those in our community, who strongly identify themselves as a footballer, hide the fact they live with T1D. In using secrecy as a coping mechanism for avoiding stigma, academic research has demonstrated that this may increase the likelihood of poorer self-management and thus health outcomes. This is a highly significant finding because for the first time I’m suggesting, with support from the research, that the culture of the sport I’ve grown up with may have a detrimental impact on my health, as a result of the culture within Football, which depicts difference as weakness and ultimately attaches it with negative stigma.

So, with greater identification towards football, you’re more likely to hide your condition, and in hiding your condition you’re less likely to do the right things to self-manage it. With this academically evidenced throughout this study it’s a finding which really needs much more investigation to test its transferability. Nonetheless, when I consider my own experience as young person growing up with the condition, this finding resonates very closely to my experience. I love the sport I’ve played but I now question the impact that it’s had on my mental health, choices and behaviours.

However, there are also questions that stem from this which could really open the door for some interesting exploration. For example, is this just as a result of the Football culture, a team sport surrounded by mainstream players, traditionally with a working class – middle class background? Does it differ with other team sports such as Cricket or Rugby, where the tradition of the game may encourage a different culture and demographic background? Could we also consider a difference between Men’s Football and Women’s Football? Is there a cultural difference between the genders?

But then what about individual sports? Is this an issue which disappears or lessens in individual sports because there isn’t the need to hide from teammates, coaches, referees and opposition players what you need to go through to get out and play? Would we see a different view from a T1D Tennis player, Golfer, Badminton player, runner or cyclist etc?

Although the evidence of the study suggests a significant challenge for those with T1D accessing a sporting culture where weakness is shunned, I do think we’ve seen an opportunity in the findings to help alleviate some of that strain. It’s not all bad news!

This mechanic we’ve created through TDFC has helped to bridge the gap in identification for this population. Building identity with diabetes is important, it helps psychologically, socially and with the eventual medical outcomes for the condition. The research is out there evidencing this but in what we’ve created we’ve potentially helped people identify with T1D who otherwise may not have done. Those people have been so keen to keep it secret because of their life’s interests and passion in Football specifically, that actually by linking their passion to the condition we might have helped gain their attention enough to identify themselves with T1D, seek out others with their condition and ultimately receive help which betters their self-management.

Combining this with the use of Social Media as our prominent tool for communication actually increases this likelihood too. Through Social Media you can view content, see what people are up to and get support from posts without anyone else knowing you’re looking. This ability to temporarily and intermittently identify with T1D is something I would guess has happened a lot. In these moments the individual can see the benefits they may get from associating with the community, talking to others who share their passion within it and begin to develop their identity with the condition that in the long run, I certainly believe and so does the academic literature, will impact positively on self-management.

It’s no secret the positive impact that peer support has for people with T1D, this has been evidenced for years with strong support for it in this study too. However, if you have no inclination to seek out others, or no reason to identify with your condition because your favourite thing in life actively tells you not to, how on earth would you find it? You wouldn’t. So, this study really for the first time suggests we need to create a positive affiliation to draw people to their condition and break down some of the stigma for those who find it hard to identify with T1D. Without that, peer support is not able to cut through to those who may need it the most. It has a hugely significant impact on people who partake in this kind of support but why isn’t everyone doing it if that’s the case? I think this is an area and idea which may help to uncover some of that why….

Peer support is an incredible tool that buffers against stigma but another area that comes through strongly in the study is the idea that personal experiences in life and of stigma are a key driver in identification with T1D. I think for this population of people they are more likely to experience stigma as a result of their decision to put themselves in an environment where their condition is far from embraced, actually actively shunned. Only 2 weeks ago did I experience a pretty obvious stigma related slur, and in the last year I’ve experienced stigma on 3 different occasions all of which were related to Football/ Futsal. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

This population struggles to come to terms with their condition in the face of it. Which is why TDFC has grown, expanded and continues to do the good it does. Because it tackles and dispels stigma whilst providing a positive view of our condition, which for the first time in our lives is celebrated rather than shunned. THIS is why TDFC has been successful. I knew the reasons deep down but now I’ve taken the time to research it and understand it from a social and cultural perspective, I believe my view of our direction is far clearer for the future, whilst I really hope it can help to influence decision makers within Diabetes care to look at niche populations in greater detail, and more importantly on the impact of stigma on self-management. I’d like to appeal to the Diabetes academic community to really consider this area in the future…. The below link shows a recent poll I ran to get a feel for how it’s affecting behaviour/choices and I think the results speak for themselves:

https://twitter.com/chrisbrighty1/status/1295416282695770116?s=21

With only really the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) focussing in on this area globally, it needs more. I might add they’re doing a fantastic job with it and a number of their papers heavily influenced my thinking, but they can’t be the only institution driving this.

Evidenced in my study and on the TDFC website is the impact the community has had on altering behaviour positively. We’ve achieved identification with T1D for the first time in this population. Which I firmly believe has resulted in an upturn in the psychological and Hba1c measures that have been achieved within this population. This wasn’t achieved through the traditional models of care provided by Doctors and Nurses but through a new innovation which championed a new way of looking at the condition. Now this is not to diminish the contribution of our incredible Diabetes teams but rather to say, there’s more we can achieve, if we work closer together.

The overall outcomes of a condition determined by self-management is far more holistic than looking only to the medical professionals who support us for the answers. Sometimes, the answers come from ourselves, our choices and our behaviours…. Which may have been influenced.

I hope the blog gives some real insight into what I’ve been working away on in the background to try to drive change for our community as well as raising awareness of why TDFC is a special project.

Throughout all of this it’s important to know that TDFC stands right there beside our NHS and healthcare workers across the globe in trying to make life easier for people with Diabetes. We couldn’t do it without you and I hope we can help you more greatly in the future.

I must say a huge thank you to those who have shared the last 3 years of my journey and the research, projects and teams I’ve been a part of at the University of Worcester. Whilst I can’t forget the contribution of both the University itself and my supervisor Dr. Gyozo Molnar. Without their support it would not have been possible.

If anyone would like to discuss the study with me, its findings or any future collaborations with TDFC please do get in touch via email:

thediabetesfootballcommunity@gmail.com

Thanks for reading,

Chris

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!

#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

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.

Ellen Brown Picture 3

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!)

Ellen Brown Picture 1

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.

Ellen Brown Picture 4

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…

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 4 (Zak Brown)

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…

Zak Brown

UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”

If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 3 (Jack O’Brien)

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!!

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 2 (Scott Burrell)

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.

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 1 (Tim Ward)

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.

Diabetes, Football and Me

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.

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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).

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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!

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G’day

Zak

If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown

Announcement: TDFC London est. 2019

Hello reader, Happy New Year!

It’s crazy to think that it was only 9 months ago that I heard about the TDFC project. Via the community, I’ve met some really top people and represented the UK at DiaEuro 2018.  An amazing journey so far, but what does the year ahead look like?

I’d already bought into the vision of TDFC before participating for the UK team at DiaEuro in Bratislava this summer. However, as a type 1 diabetic for 7 years now, I was stunned with how much more I learnt about the condition during the course of the tournament. I didn’t even have to try. Diabetes related chitchat would pop up naturally all the time. I gained loads of great insight on how to manage the condition whilst playing sport and life in general.  My control was the best it had been in years too, and that seemed the case for multiple players.

The whole experience got us thinking – the platform for diabetics with a passion for playing football to meet up and learn from each other really does need expanding. It could bring so much good for diabetics new and old. Our experience was proof of it!

On the final day of DiaEuro 2018, whilst watching Bosnia cruise to victory in the final, we found out something very interesting. We learnt that the Bosnian team compete on a weekly basis in the 2nd division of the Bosnian Futsal League. That’s mega impressive: an entire team of diabetics playing (and winning) against high level non-diabetic team’s week in week out. This didn’t just give them the edge to win DiaEuro, it’s allowed them to raise the profile of diabetes and help to break down any perceived barriers to participation, a key goal of TDFC.

Post DiaEuro, with a strong desire to help TDFC grow and see the UK team improve at the next DiaEuro tournament, we decided to develop a new project – to set up the first all diabetic futsal/football team to compete in the English futsal/football pyramid.

  • Where? London.
  • When? Now!
  • Futsal/Football? Futsal (to begin with)
  • Club name? TDFC London

Over the past few months, we’ve laid down the foundations to get the project underway. Some great conversations with the London Futsal League, in combination with an opening for new teams to join the new season in February 2019, means we’re only weeks away from launching!

If you are at all interested in joining TDFC London, whether it be as a player, coach, sponsor or supporter (the more fans the better), contact tdfclondon19@gmail.com to find out how to get involved.

Hopefully this is just the start of things to come. It would be amazing to one day see the platform expand to provide opportunities for men and women of all ages, all over the country.

The year ahead looks good

Bryn

Project development manager