x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Football club offers diabetes tests to 4,000 spectators

Sharjah Football Club offers fans free blood-sugar and body-mass-index tests, making raising awareness of the disease a priority.

Frederico Jovillano, left, checks the blood sugar level of a football fan in Sharjah yesterday.
Frederico Jovillano, left, checks the blood sugar level of a football fan in Sharjah yesterday.

SHARJAH // Sharjah Football Club offered fans a little something extra to the usual excitement on the pitch during its match against Al Wahda yesterday: free blood-sugar and body-mass-index tests. More than 4,000 fans were also offered information leaflets as they filed into the stadium. The club has made raising awareness about diabetes a priority this season. In recent months it worked with Sharjah Men's College, part of the Higher Colleges of Technology, to provide weekly sessions on health and physical education for first-year students.

The pinprick blood-sugar test takes about 30 seconds to show signs of diabetes, and is widely used by medical practitioners and as a home testing kit for sufferers. A body-mass-index test (BMI), which is calculated based on a person's height and weight, will alert physicians to patients who are either obese or prone to obesity. In addition to being at-risk for diabetes, they could face other serious health implications such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

Mohammed al Zarouni, 22, came to the stadium to play in the Kick Diabetes community match before Sharjah's anticipated showdown against the UAE Pro League's top team, Al Wahda of Abu Dhabi. The blood-sugar test was a first for the Emirati student of business and finance, and it was negative. "I don't think people here are aware of the dangers of diabetes," he said. "We have so many obese people here in the UAE. Maybe they just don't care so much about their health."

Mohammed Gogaon, a 16-year-old Iranian who was born in Dubai, plays football every week. Although he was spared a positive test, Mohammed said he, like many others, did not have a healthy diet. "People need to be taught about the dangers of a bad diet," he said. Dr Irshad Leghari, a general physician specialising in diabetes at Al Zahra Hospital, administered the tests yesterday with nurses. "These people here today are key target areas for us," he said. "Those people under 30 are very susceptible, living sedentary lives, and we want to help moderate their diets and advise on exercise."

While more people are coming to the hospital for screening, and the doctor's team recently screened 250 students at the American University of Sharjah, he said it was still vital to spread the message about the dangers of diabetes. Sharjah FC aims to be a role model for other clubs to encourage co-operation with schools and other parts of the community, said Tim March, the club's general manager.

"Most of the guys who come to the match are Emirati, who are the high risk group," he said. "It's a big issue, and perhaps in a football stadium we can help to make them think about this a bit more. It's such a quick and easy test and these people really are a key group to target." Sharjah was unable to give its fans a victory, as well; Al Wahda won, 3-0, clinching the championship. @Email:mswan@thenational.ae