In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:
“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.
The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.
The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…
UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”
If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown
In our third addition we share the thoughts of Jack O’Brien… Jack has a fresh outlook on the way Diabetes has impacted his life having been diagnosed quite recently! His account offers some great insight into how a newbie to type 1 Diabetes feels about the challenge of this condition coming into their life… No more words from us let Jack do the talking…
“First of all, I think I should point out that I am a relative newbie in the Diabetic world having only been Diagnosed 2 years ago today! (I wrote this on 6th Feb). DiaEuro was only the second time I was going to be away from home, and all the supposed safety that comes with that, since I was diagnosed.
To say I was nervous doesn’t really do it justice! I was fully aware that I was going to be spending the week with a group of people who have for the most part been Type 1 Diabetic for a long time. The fear or seeming like I don’t really know what I’m doing, or “messing up” all the time was playing on my mind because this was for me the first time I would be spending a prolonged period of time with other Diabetics. It’s funny how weird things like this can play on your mind! I was seriously still at a stage where I felt like it was only me who suffered from hypos because everyone else would have it under control!
The first morning we are there, we all go down to breakfast together as a squad to enjoy the spread of food that was being put on. It was this experience that alleviated all the pre concerns I had. Seeing most of us checking sugar levels and injecting insulin immediately eased my nerves. This was something that I found awkward to do beforehand.
Before you knew it, Diabetic chat was bouncing around the table. The same problems I found, others were also talking about. In a weird way, if felt so liberating! That sense of not being in something alone, that others have found ways to overcome similar situations and have come through them to find solutions was amazing for a newbie to hear.
You hear the phrase “trial and error” thrown around a lot when it comes to Diabetes, and I really understood that so much more after this journey. A corner was well and truly turned for me during this week. I am now playing sports more regularly, because I feel more confident. Understanding food on the day of playing football is something that is so important. Seeing other people using the Dexcom looked brilliant. Once I finished my trial run, I missed it so much that I signed up for 12 months.
The whole experience was invaluable to me. I learned more in that week than I would have done in years studying books and speaking to specialists. Seeing people who regularly play sport and manage their Diabetes gave me so many tips and ideas that I use myself now. There really is no better experience than experience itself.”
Thank you to Jack for sharing his thoughts on how TDFC has helped him and the UK DiaEuro team in particular. If you want to follow Jack on social media you can find him on Twitter @DalstonGooner … If you want to know what’s going on at Arsenal FC Jack’s your man to follow!!
In our second instalment of “It’s much more than just Football or Futsal” we look at the story of Scott Burrell. His journey with TDFC and type 1 Diabetes has been staggering and for those of you unaware of what Diabetes care was like without the technology that is available now, I’d urge you to read on… This is a fascinating account of how TDFC has effected and improved Scott’s life and another example of a social / community based project like ours supporting healthcare benefits and objectives for those living with the condition. No more talking from us lets hear from Scott in his own words:
“Being selected in the UK DiaEuro squad really changed my ‘diabetic life’ and that’s by no means an exaggeration! Firstly, and something a majority of the squad had said, was that they’d never met another T1 in ‘normal’ life so that was great. Like any football squad you tend to bond quite quickly with the other players but we bonded especially quickly as we all shared the condition. My knowledge of T1 has increased ten fold. It was great to share stories and bounce successes/failures off each other.
I was actually the only member on mixed insulin. I was taking Humulin M3 which was the same insulin I’d used since diagnosis in 1999! I’d been told for many years, probably close to 10, that a basal/bolus regime would be better for me, but me being a stubborn so and so I’d always thought I’d be better sticking with what I knew. Seeing all the other lads using the basal/bolus regime and many telling me how they had moved from mixed insulin and how much better it was really gave me the incentive to change.
A few months after we got back I eventually made the switch and now take Toujeo & Novo Rapid, I’m finding it much better and in hindsight wish I’d changed over many years ago. I’m certainly having less hypos which had always been a big problem for me before. As good as healthcare professionals are it was the kick from people living with the condition day in, day out which convinced me to finally change.
Finally I’m a lot more open about my Diabetes now… Growing up and even in my early 20s I’d try to hide it as much as possible, not talk about it and only tell people I was T1 if really needed. My mentality completely changed about that having been selected in the squad. I’ve now had newspaper articles written about me and appeared in a TDFC video filmed by BBC Hereford & Worcester which they shared on their social media platforms talking about the project and the condition. It actually made me feel ‘proud’ and gave me a desire to talk about diabetes for the first time…something I’d never experienced before in my time as a T1.”
Keep an eye out for more stories from some of the community and if you want to follow Scott on social media head to his twitter account @scottbufc to get in contact with him.
In April 2018, we started something which had never been done before. We created the first ever Futsal team in the UK that contained only players that lived with Type 1 Diabetes… As much as we hoped it would inspire and raise awareness of the condition we also wanted it to change lives and demonstrate the value of doing things differently to the medical profession when looking after people with Diabetes. We think it’s done that and more! Hopefully organisations such as the NHS can see the value organisations like ours add and continue to grow their support and the opportunities to work more closely together.
However, that’s enough about what we think…. Let’s hear from Tim Ward the UK Diabetes Futsal Team Goalkeeper about how TDFC has changed his life:
“Since becoming involved in the Diabetes Football Community and representing the UK as a member of the DiaEuro Squad my view of and the way I approach and manage my diabetes has changed, dramatically and it’s all been positive.
My usual mind set for the dreaded annual review at the local Diabetes Centre was an appointment to be met with the same antipathy as some of the staff showed when I tried to discuss the dreaded topic of getting any “Flash Glucose Monitoring”?! I have had my “Lazy” pancreas now for 37 years and as you can imagine as the years pass the complications within your health and well-being can arise and you start to accept this as the inevitable. Not any more!
A group of lads with a shared love of all things Futsal and Football related (be it all with Diabetes) can be a base of support, encouragement and knowledge which goes against the stereotype many wish to portray, but this is exactly what I have found.
Gone is the stigma of testing my blood glucose levels in the changing room before a game, or taking in extra carbohydrates if my levels drop while playing.
I have found answers to questions that the local clinics were unable or unwilling to give, I have experienced flash monitoring which has had an amazing effect on my knowledge of how my diet and eating habits affect my levels and how to better manage them to keep within the optimum levels. I have through the members of the squad learned new diet ideas of more fibrous carbohydrates, of when and how to inject and different options on the insulin to use. I now know that there are a myriad of options available to me to not just perform better in a sporting context but also live a healthier more energized life of less hypos, a better hba1c and greater trust in my own body.
The greatest impact has been that I do not have to be ashamed of my condition, it is not a weakness, don’t believe it and don’t let others convince you that it is. It is simply a bad hand dealt. Make the most of that hand, TDFC can and will support you in any way they can.
TDFC and especially the players, coaches and management of the DiaEuro squad have taught me through words, actions or just a smile and a nod that when you’re ready to play, take a deep breath, tie your boots, test your blood and go and beat whatever is in front of you, because you can.”
If you want to follow Tim on social media head to his twitter: @Tim_Ward07 or to his instagram: @timward16 and make sure you keep an eye out on the blog as we release more player thoughts on how TDFC has impacted their lives in the coming weeks.
It’s great to be able to share stories of our community and when we asked Zak if he’d like to write for the blog he was really keen… If you’d like to write something for us please get in touch! Anyway, over to Zak…
Hi, my name is Zak. I am 26 years old and a PE Teacher from Lancashire, England but currently living in Sydney, Australia.
Football has always been a huge part of my life and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 14 did not change this one bit.
Despite my Dad’s initial fears that I may not be able to play football in the same way, we were reassured by the nurses at Blackburn Hospital that I could continue my number one hobby soon enough. Sure enough, after a few minor adjustments and some extra pre-game preparation, I lined up for my team just two weeks after diagnosis! I remember it so vividly, tucking into a couple of digestive biscuits at half time to keep my blood sugars up and cramping up towards the end of the game.
I know that many people have struggled to keep up their previous lifestyles after diagnosis, through fear of hypos/hypers or by misinformed advice, but it’s something that has never stopped me from doing anything I like… except for one thing – scuba diving.
I have tried to Scuba Dive twice in Thailand and Australia but not been accepted both times. Without a doctor’s letter of approval after taking private health exams via a registered “dive doctor”, unfortunately I had to stick to snorkeling. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences with scuba diving so please get in contact if you have a story or info worth sharing!
And despite the scuba setback, I have done kayaking, bungee jumps, overnight treks, 100km bike rides and many many more adventurous activities!
Having diabetes has its obvious challenges and hurdles we face day in, day out, but it has given me some great experiences that I will cherish for a long time to come…
I have been fortunate to represent Great Britain in the Junior Diabetes Cup held in Geneva, Switzerland. In my first year (2009), we won the tournament in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Slovakia. I was due to be the next penalty taker and I can’t describe the relief I felt at not having to take one! I went back again the next year and was nominated to be captain, which was an incredible honour. Despite finishing the top scorer in the tournament, we lost 1-0 in the final to Slovakia who got their sweet revenge (excuse the pun).
Then in September 2016, I decided to move to Australia to give life a go “down under”. I have found a great football team here in Sydney and have represented Australia at the Mini Football World Cup in Tunisia, playing in front of a packed stadium of 3000 fans under the floodlights! I spent a bit of time pre-tournament learning the national anthem so that I didn’t have to mime awkwardly whilst on camera! I was also part of the UK’s first diabetic futsal team to play in DiaEuro 2018, which was an amazing experience both on and off the court. To meet so many other diabetics with a passion as big as mine for football was incredible, you can imagine how many stories were shared during that week!
A few adjustments have been made after moving to Australia, most notably with my prescriptions and dealing with heat of up to 40 degrees during summer! I have to pay for my diabetes supplies here, which makes me appreciate just how good the NHS is back home. Playing football in the heat took some trial and error too. My suncream is now just as important to pack as my insulin on a Saturday afternoon!
Two and a half years down the line and I’m still enjoying life here. I’ve met one other sporting diabetic superstar and her family in Sydney – my namesakes the Brown’s have been great at handling Ellen’s diabetes whilst she competes at the highest level of futsal in Australia at U17 and all age women’s level. I hope to meet and chat to a few other sporty diabetics in the near future, so if you’ve read this and want to add anything of your own then please step forward!
If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown
Well… What a journey that was! I think it surpassed all of our expectations from a management, coaching and playing perspective and I couldn’t be prouder of how everyone equipped themselves with the whole experience.
With this blog I wanted to let the players share their thoughts on what DiaEuro meant to them and I’ll share mine in another post at a later date!
So over to some of the lads to tell you about it…
Tim Ward, our Goalkeeper and most improved player who played a pivotal role in our first win against Romania shares his thoughts:
Tim Ward – UK Goalkeeper
“Christmas 2017, my wife is surfing social media and shows me a post by TDFC asking for players for the first ever UK type one Diabetic Futsal team. “Sounds brilliant, wish this had been around 20 years ago I’d be all over that”. My wife being my wife tells me to stop being negative (You’re 42 not 102) and sent my details to Chris Bright (I think she had half completed the form before I actually agreed to do it)!
To cut a long story short here I am eight months later saying (with a massive amount of pride and a massive smile on my face) that I was part of the first UK Futsal team to compete at DiaEuro. What a journey it has been and the 8 days we spent in Slovakia were an emotional rollercoaster. The highest high being our first win against Romania (previous champions).
What a feeling, what a moment in life. The team talks pre match, then the UK chant, followed by singing the national anthems (out of time haha) and definitely out of tune were moments I’ll never forget. Then there was the game itself, I was nervous but growing in confidence as the team began to put the Romanians under pressure, the goals, the shared joy, the celebrating. I was part of that. Let me just say that again so I can believe it, I was part of that. I am an International futsal player who’s played at a European Championships.
I have memories that money cannot buy. I have laughed until my jaw ached, I am (in a bad Italian accent) “Big Brother” to the Italian team and we sang Karaoke with the Portuguese team (Ai Se Eu Te Pego, have a listen to it as it’s the tune of the tournament). I have friends for life. I have pride and love for a group of people, who 8 months ago I did not know but through a shared condition, that has not stopped any one of us, it’s actually brought us together and given me an opportunity to represent my condition and my country.
I have lived the dream, cheers every one of you”
Make sure you check out this save from Tim to keep the score at 0-0 in our first win vs Romania… Incredible for a man who isn’t a regular goalkeeper!
Next up are the comments from our anchor and Manager’s player of the tournament, Zak Brown who played the most minutes of anyone from the UK team in the tournament:
Zak Brown – UK Anchor
“I break into a smile every time I think back to the DiaEuro experience with team UK. On the court and in preparation for the games, we did everything we could to succeed despite having the least futsal experience of the nations in our group. I was delighted to pick up two wins across the tournament and run some fantastic futsal players close in our first attempt.
Off the court, team spirits were kept high as we socialised as a group, talking about our common ground of football, managing diabetes and generally joking around with each other as any team on tour would do!
I am excited to see what the future brings with TDFC. One thing is for sure, the foundations have been laid. With more exposure to our growing community and more people on board to help, I hope for many more experiences like this in years to come!”
And lastly but by no means least, we have our captain, pivot and joint top goalscorer, Jon Tyrrell (JT) with his in depth perspective of the tournament:
Jon Tyrrell (JT) – Pivot & Captain
“It was such an incredible tournament. To see so many top quality players from 17 different countries, all united around the same difference of having to live and play sport with diabetes was inspiring.
When I heard there was an all diabetic UK futsal team being put together I couldn’t believe it – futsal has been one of my biggest passions since I discovered the game on a football tour of Spain in 2007.
It was an honour to find out I’d be captaining the first UK team to enter the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes. We’d been drawn into a really tough group – many referred to as the group of death – with high-flyers Russia, Portugal and Italy.
Leading the team out alongside the Azzurri for our first game was really special, knowing you’re representing 4million people from the UK who live every day with diabetes.
It was to be only the second time a number of the guys had played futsal at all, and in front of a couple of hundred onlookers keen to see whether this UK futsal team would be the tournaments whipping boys. I think our nerves got the better of us a bit and we found ourselves 3-0 down at half time against a very strong Italy team featuring a couple of professional football and futsal players. But in the second half we came back strong, showing some grit to win the second half 2-1 and lose the game 4-2.
After an outstanding performance against Russia – holding them to 1-1 with only 5min to go – before eventually losing 2-1, we were taught a bit of a futsal lesson from Portugal who went on to beat us 6-1. That meant we were in the bottom half of the draw for places 9-17th and would face 2015 champions Romania in our next game – another really tough match.
The way we played against Romania was simply outstanding. To dictate the play and create the number of chances we did as well as looking strong at the back and keeping a clean sheet was something we were all so proud of. A brace from Brighty giving us a 2 goal lead to defend as Romania switched to the fly keeper.
Our 5th game against last year’s finalists Hungary ended up being our last game of the week. 0-0 at half time the game could have gone either way but a strong second half from Hungary and clever long ball play out from the back meant we were unpicked on a number of occasions. Another lesson to learn for next year, this time against a well worked 2-2 box formation.
From my perspective a massive thanks has to go to the coaching staff and players – to assemble and teach a futsal team to play against opposition of that calibre, from only a handful of training sessions demonstrates the ability of our coaches and players alike.
For me the main thing I’ll take from this week was the character from our players and staff. There was an incredible team spirit amongst us – everyone was learning fast and being thrown in at the deep end. I think we all had a lot of fun throughout the highs and lows you face during a tournament with 5-6 intense games in a week. Everyone contributed in their own way both on and off the court.
Our goalkeeper Tim deserves a special mention as some of the saves he pulled off – one in particular v Romania at 0-0 was quite outstanding for someone who’d not previously played as a futsal keeper before.
Also a massive thanks to the Slovakian hosts and everyone who helped put on this year’s DiaEuros. What a week! I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited to build on this for next year.”
JT also pulled together the below video of some of our on court action… (All of the goals except for the Italy game)
I’d like to say a massive thank you to our players, coaching staff, sponsors ( Havas Lynx , Dexcom & Gluco ) and the organisers for everything they supported with at the tournament.
As well as the people who supported us in Slovakia we must also say a massive thank you to the people from the UK who supported us, shared our story and continue to back the work of The Diabetes Football Community as we wouldn’t be creating projects like this if it wasn’t for all of you!!!
We will continue to demonstrate that Diabetes is just another hurdle to jump, not a mountain to climb and that as a community, together we’re stronger!
The Full Team from left to right….. Back: Jon Rosser, Ryan Bampfield, Scott Burrell, Tim Ward, Toby McCauley, Paul McHugh (Coach) Front: Jon Tyrrell, Shane Peckover, Chris Bright (Manager), Harley Jean Simpson (Assistant Coach), Jack O’Brien, Bryn White, Zak Brown, Jahna Drunis (Physiotherapist)