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Football and Diabetes - Special Focus

  • 4 min read
Tv screen showing football match in the background. Foreground showing bottles of beer and crisps.

Last weekend saw kick-off for Euros 2024 and for persons with diabetes we’ve put together this football focussed blog to inform and inspire those with an interest in the sport, whether out at a pub, party or just plonked in front of the TV.

We’re starting with addressing the myth that those with diabetes can’t play sports like football and naming some of the top players who have had successful careers whilst managing the condition. Hopefully, providing some inspiration!

If you are thinking about joining a team or having an informal game of footie, we’ve got some top tips for managing your diabetes whilst enjoying a kick-about. 

Can you play sport if you have diabetes?

It’s a common myth that those with diabetes can’t participate in sport and football comes up quite often with healthcare professionals, clubs, schools and carers regularly suggesting that persons living with the condition are not able to take part, let alone play professionally. However, this is totally false and a very dated view.

Exercise and taking part in sports should be a part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, within ability. Playing football is no exception and as explained in the Nordic study discussed later in this blog, it offers benefits such as reducing the likelihood of diabetes-related complications.

As you’ll see below this hasn’t stopped some T1Ds becoming stars of the football pitch!

Professional Footballers and T1D

There are a number of professional footballers playing the game at the highest level who have diabetes, including type 1, that play in the elite clubs and are very successful in their footballing career.

Back in the 1990’s, former Tottenham Hotspur player and T1D, Gary Mabbutt had success with the club playing in the UEFA Cup and FA Cup.

Another retired football player with type 1 diabetes is Danny McGrain (Scotland). 

More recently, Scott Allan, also a T1D and player for Larne in NI was a part of the squad winning the NIFL Premiership Championship for 2024.

Inspirational T1D footballers to spot at the Euros


Real Madrid’s former Captain (until June 2024) and Spanish defender, Nacho was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 12 years old. He has previously spoken about learning of his diagnosis and being told by the doctor that his “footballing days were over”.

However, after seeing a second doctor, who became his regular endocrinologist, Nacho was told “the complete opposite: in no way was football over for me. In fact, it was essential I continued playing because physical exercise is very important. That Monday, my life started again."

He has since had a very successful career with Real Madrid, being part of the club from the age of 11 years old.  He has won 26 trophies at Real Madrid, making him the joint most decorated player in the clubs history (alongside Luka Modrić).

He is also a key player in the Spanish defence and currently wears number 4. It’s not clear if he wears a CGM but when watching the Spanish team it may be worth keep an eye out!

Tips for watching the games

By following our advice below you should be able to focus on the match and not your numbers…

  1. Be aware of your glucose levels.

It’s a good idea to check your glucose level, either checking on a cgm app or by finger prick test, before the main action starts. This will give you a useful starting point, especially if you’ll be snacking, eating a meal or drinking alcohol during the course of the game.

Make a point of also checking levels at half-time and at the end of the match too. Adrenalin can play a part in rising levels!

  1. Watch out for high carbohydrate foods.

Try following meal sequencing principles. 

  1. Keep a watch on alcohol consumption.
If drinking alcohol it's important to consider what type of drink you choose and how many you’re consuming.
  1. Be active at appropriate times.
  2. Be ready with diabetes necessities.
  3. Consider wearing/carrying medical ID.

Playing football benefits diabetes management

A Nordic study published in 2018 showed that playing football can be beneficial for type 2 diabetes management and when undertaken with following a healthy diet, it offered more benefits than following the same diet alone. The study involved adults aged 55-70 who were overweight, didn’t exercise often and were at high risk of developing type 2.


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Blogs and publications on this website are independent of any involvement by medtech companies or diabetes related charities. To ensure there is no bias, we do not accept any products, freebies or other material from any medtech provider. Except where credited otherwise, all materials are copyright ©️Love My Libre Ltd.

Love My Libre is not associated or affiliated with Abbott or FreeStyle Libre. Content here and on our website does not constitute medical advice or replace the relationship between you and healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

The author of this blog has type 1 diabetes and uses the FreeStyle Libre 2 which is provided on NHS prescription.

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