Diabetes and Futsal by Chris Bright
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
In April 2018, The Diabetes Football Community began the challenge of creating the first ever all type 1 diabetic Futsal team to represent the United Kingdom. It was an ambitious task and you’re probably reading this thinking why would you want to do that in the first place?
Let me try and answer that for you…
Type 1 Diabetes, is a chronic medical condition which is classified by UK law (Equality Act, 2010, chapter 15), and many other laws worldwide, as a disability. Due to its unseen nature and more prominent bigger brother, type 2 diabetes, its often misunderstood, underestimated and wrongly labelled. Anything that is identified as a disability, is challenging to live with whilst attempting to live a “normal life”, but it becomes more difficult when people are unable to see or feel the effect of what you live with. Combining that with the attachment of stigma to your condition based on a lack of awareness and knowledge of the difference between the types of Diabetes, and the challenge is heightened.
Type 1 Diabetes under control is a condition which allows you to live a normal life with some mild adjustments to it. Type 1 Diabetes out of control is life-threatening. It really is as simple as that! This feeling of injustice I had from facing the stigma, lack of understanding and ignorance throughout my life within sport led me to try and go about challenging for change… These inequalities I’d spotted, combined with a reasonable part time playing career, gave me the knowhow to create the Diabetes Football Community in February, 2017 www.thediabetesfootballcommunity.com. A peer support community designed to provide support, guidance and inspiration for those living with the condition as well as challenging and educating those who impact upon how we live our lives. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics
After all, how many people do you know out there that are living with a disability but partake in mainstream sport and have no other alternative but to compete in that field? The circumstances are rare…Which is why our community has become an important support mechanism which continues to change the lives of those who interact with us.
Born from the creation of the community was the opportunity to create the UK’s first type 1 Futsal team to compete in DiaEuro or the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes www.diaeuro.org. In September 2017, I went on a trip to Lisbon, Portugal to meet the Portuguese type 1 diabetes Futsal team who’d been established within the tournament for many years to do some fact finding about their project and how we might go about recreating it here in the UK. The trip was the very start of the journey that inspired and drove me towards the creation of the team.
After months searching for facilities, sponsors and people to take part in the project in the early part of 2018, things were looking positive and I was confident we could make it happen. We’d affiliated our club to the Worcestershire FA and sought the support of the local university, the University of Worcester. Both institutions and our sponsors have been instrumental in our development. The initial aim was to bring together players from all over the country to the University of Worcester to kick things off…
7 months after the Portuguese trip and we had the team’s first get together. We’d developed a plan and recruited some willing volunteers / members of staff to help get it going and we’ve never looked back. In July 2018 we played our first friendly fixture against a select group of players from the England visually impaired team and Worcester Futsal club at the university of Worcester. It was a promising start as we played out a draw in the game and lost in the resulting penalty shoot-out. Just a week later and we headed out to our first international tournament in Bratislava, Slovakia. I won’t try and capture the week away in this post but if you want to read about it head over to this link to hear about it from the players https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/08/06/diaeuro-2018-the-players-view/.
Ultimately, finishing 11th out of 17 European nations in our first tournament was a great start but my ambition and that of the players is obviously to improve year after year. It will always be tough to compete with the top nations who have professional and semi-professional players from established futsal countries, but we know we’ve got some very good players ready to challenge as best as we can in the future.
But winning isn’t the be all and end all of this team… The most important thing that this team/project attempts to achieve is providing inspiration for those living with type 1 to believe that it doesn’t have to stop you from playing the sport you love or the passion you have in life. If along the way, we can help educate and raise awareness of Diabetes in the public and change the common perception of the condition, we will have achieved exactly what we intended to. It goes a lot further than the 40 minutes on court…
We now embark on an exciting 2019, full of promise, potential fixtures, another DiaEuro (hopefully!) and the chance to continue to share positivity about this medical condition. As always with projects like this we need support and funding to continue the work we do as a not for profit organisation, so if there are any businesses, coaches or members of the Futsal community who may want to get involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I hope that by sharing this post you may now be thinking something differently about the word Diabetes when it comes up in conversation.