Real Madrid footballer Nacho Fernandez has revealed how he was told his “footballing days were over” after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child.
Speaking to UEFA, the 27-year-old, said: “I was only 12 when I found out I was diabetic. I’d been on Real Madrid’s books for two years and obviously it was a tough time.
“I remember going to the hospital – I was supposed to go to a tournament with Real Madrid but had to miss it – and I was seen by a doctor, not an endocrinologist. She told me my footballing days were over.”
However, the support from a specialist diabetes doctor meant the Spaniard carried on playing football. He has now played more than 100 games for Real Madrid and seven games for the Spanish national side.
He said: “Dr Ramirez […] told me 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.”
Nacho, whose full name is Jose Ignacio Fernandez Iglesias, added having diabetes means he has to take care of himself “three times more than a normal person” but he does not believe that is a bad thing.
“In a roundabout way I think that also helps. You have to take greater care with your diet and the way you rest. It makes you more responsible because you always have to carry your diabetes equipment.”
Throughout his footballing career, Nacho has already won the Champions League twice, the most prestigious competition in European football, as well as La Liga, the top football division in Spain.
He added: “I have no limitations. There are food types I need to be a bit more careful about, but […] I’m lucky it’s under control and I get on very well with my doctor.
“As I said, diabetes makes you a more responsible person and you look after yourself much more. I know it’s going to be there for the rest of my life – well, unless they find a cure. It’s like having a teammate by my side.”
For more information on playing sport and doing exercise with diabetes, visit our Diabetes and Sport section.

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