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Canadian kids with diabetes to compete in international soccer tournament

08/22/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 10/21/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Playing soccer while constantly carrying an insulin pump is something 12-year-old Will Harrison has had to master ever since he was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago.

The Charlottetown player is one of eleven Canadian kids who will represent the country at an international junior soccer tournament for children with diabetes.

"I'm very excited," Harrison said Wednesday at a news conference.

The Canadian team, comprised of seven boys and four girls between the ages of nine and 12, will compete in the Junior Cup Diabetes taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, from Aug. 24 to 26. More than 130 children from 12 countries will take part in the event.

Harrison, like other kids living with the chronic disease, needs to wear an insulin pump at all times, but he said it doesn't get in the way of his soccer playing.

"It was easier than doing injections every day," he said, adding that he used to inject himself three to four times daily before getting the pump.

Harrison's teammate, Matthew Wrobel, was only five when he was first diagnosed with diabetes.

"I kept on losing weight so my mom went to the hospital with me and my blood sugar was really high," said the nine-year-old from Mississauga, Ont.

"I had a lot of learning to do," he said. "I didn't know what (diabetes) meant."

Wrobel said he now has to watch what he eats and monitors his blood sugar levels on a regular basis.

For Harrison and some of his team mates, it will be their first trip outside Canada. It will also be an opportunity to share their stories with children from other countries who live with diabetes.

Wrobel hopes that taking the trip will ease his mother's anxiety and show her he can manage his condition while he's away from home.

"I want to go for my mom because she's always so nervous," he said.

While in Switzerland, the young players will have a chance to meet French soccer champion Christian Karembeu and Bas Van de Goor, an Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball player from the Netherlands who lives with diabetes.

The trip is sponsored by Medtronic, a maker of medical devices. Company spokeswoman Meg Stevens said it's important for Canadian kids to take part in this event.

"Living with Type 1 diabetes as a child can be a challenge," she said. "We want to inspire, encourage and help with their diabetes education."

The team will be accompanied by Toronto-based York University professor Michael Riddell, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 14.

Riddell will help educate the kids on how to enjoy an active lifestyle while dealing with diabetes.

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