19th Nov, 2018

Footballer Chris sets his goal as a diabetes pioneer

Correspondent 10th Feb, 2018

FOOTBALLERS and goals go hand in hand. Scoring goals, setting goals, achieving goals.

So it’s no surprise Pershore Town midfielder Chris Bright has a few targets in mind. Not all on the pitch, however.

Chris, who is studying for a masters sports research degree at the University of Worcester, wants to be a pioneer – by creating a footballing first.

The 27-year-old was diagnosed with type one diabetes aged eight but now he wants to help break down sporting barriers for diabetics by setting up the first UK diabetic futsal team to play in what is effectively the European Championships.

As well as playing for Pershore in the Midland League, Bright plays futsal, a FIFA-backed five-a-side version of football which is hugely popular in other parts of the globe, after featuring for the Wales national team, National League side Birmingham Tigers and now his university side.

“It would be the first time we’ve sent a futsal team to the DiaEuro tournament,” said Bright. “The tournament has been played since 2012, with mainly Eastern European teams, but there’s never been a UK team.

“I got the chance to see Portugal’s team last September to get some idea of what’s required and my first thought was why can’t we do it too?

“It’s something we are going to have to fund through sponsors and we’ve set up an online funding campaign.”

Bright is under no illusions about the task ahead to create a DiaEuro team for the tournament in Slovakia in July. It needs players, back-room staff, and funding for travelling and accommodation but he has never been afraid to meet a challenge head-on.

After his experiences, and as part of his studies, he set up the Diabetes Football Community last February to share experiences and advice to people in similar scenarios.

“I never felt there was enough support in my own experience growing up and I felt others would have been in the same situation,” he said.

“There’s been an amazing reaction since I started the Diabetes Football Community on social media. I have had contact with people from America, Australia and across Europe. I’ve had 3,300 likes on Facebook, 750 followers on Twitter and the website has more than 1,000 views each month.

“When I started I thought it would be pretty niche but I wanted to raise awareness and educate people within the game and that’s been really successful.

“I want to challenge perceptions and ideas about diabetes.”

Part of that awareness is within the football arena. Former Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt, who played 750 senior games and won 16 England caps in the 1980s and 1990s, is perhaps the most high-profile type 1 diabetic but current pros include Southend’s Ben Coker, Lincoln City’s Jack Muldoon plus Celtic’s Scott Allan.

Type 1 diabetes means regular insulin injections, monitoring blood glucose and carbohydrate counting and the preparation to play 90 minutes of football starts 48 hours before a game.

“Some of the lads can rock up at 1.30pm before a game ready to play, but having diabetes means I need to plan everything because if I don’t it will affect my performance,” said Bright.

“I’m a footballer, first and foremost. If you watch me play, you wouldn’t know I have diabetes. When I tell people they are pretty amazed, shocked but I’ve never let my diabetes stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

“At school I played in the district teams and had trials with League clubs. I’ve never felt discriminated against because of my diabetes. But I’ve never made a point to telling people because I want to be picked on merit.”

For more details and to donate, visit the gofundme.com/UKDiaEuro website and would-be sponsors can contact Chris at thediabetesfootballcommunity@gmail.com

Players, coaches and volunteers can e-mail Harley Simpson at h.simpson@worc.ac.uk or Jon Peach at peach_jon@yahoo.com

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